Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Fylde Tick - 27/08/11

With a Fylde list of 217 species you would imagine that I had seen pretty much all the common resident and migrant species to occur in the area, however one big gap had always been Redstart which I had never managed to connect with on spring migration. Well on Saturday I tried to rectify this when I recieved a text in the evening off Len saying that there was a juvenile near to Cockersands near Glasson and luckily my dad agreed to take me to try see it. We easily found the right field and started to scan along the hedgerow along the edge where a few birds were perching before dropping down onto the recently plowed ground to search for insects. There were several Robins doing this and after a short while I spotted the juvenile Redstart about 20 metres away in the last hawthorn bush before it dropped down allowing me to see that it was a very orange example, almost as bright as the Robins it was feeding with! It continued to feed for the next 10 minutes allowing for very nice views until it disappeared into the depths of the bush and out of sight so we headed home very happy. This was my 218th Fylde bird, and took my British and Fylde yearlists up to 192 and 187 respectively.

Wryneck Dip - 26/08/11

On Wednesday a Wryneck was found on Horwich Moor, right on the border of Lancashire and Greater Manchester however it disappeared on Thursday before being re found on the morning of Friday. Ash and Aaron thought it was worth a look so we headed off in the morning arriving on site about 11:00 and after a quick look round we found the area where it had been seen last and also a couple of birders who informed us that it hadn't been seen since about 8:30. In the fields next to the woods where it had been seen were a few Pied Wagtails including on melanistic bird that was very dark, a sooty black colour all over. The birders said it was last seen flying over the road where we viewing up onto the moors above us so we decided to head up there but unfortunately all we could find were 7 Wheatear, 3 Kestrels and a Tree Pipit. Despite this disappointment a nice surprise was found on the slate bank next to the road as we passed on the way down, a gorgeous Wall Brown butterfly, a new species for all 3 of us. It gave great views however it didn't like to sit still for very long and whenever it did land it was always in an awkward place! Got a few half decent shots and the best 2 are below. This is my 28th species of British butterfly and my 12th new species of the year.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Brilliant Bat Walk - 24/08/11

The birding during the day was pretty poor however I was looking forward to the evening as I was going on a bat walk around Stanley Park with a few of the rangers, Ash, Aaron, Dave and some of the public. We started around 9pm and set off with a load of torches and a few bat detectors which quickly picked up the clicking of a Pipistrelle Bat flying around the edge of the bowling greens so we all stopped to look. Whilst we were doing this a large moth flew in front of Ash's face and with some excellent net skill he managed to catch it and upon placing in a pot we could see it was an Old Lady moth, my first ever of this large species, and further round a Crescent moth in the gardens. Walking down towards the lake we saw a Brown Long Eared Bat and then over the lake itself we watched at least 4 Daubenton's Bats picking insects off the surface of the water. On the boathouse we found 3 more Old Lady moths resting on the wall

Walking up along the edge of the northern lake and then across the road into the woodland gardens we saw several more Pipistrelle Bats however there wasn't much else about until the definate highlight of the night was found on the way back to the visitor centre. Walking along the western side of the north lake Ash spotted a couple of moths resting up on an oak tree so we went to investigate and found that it was covered in at least 40 moths including 5 absolutely beautiful Red Underwings, a new species for me and probably my new favourite species out of all the ones I've seen. I hadn't taken my camera since I wasn't expecting to need it but luckily Ash did so the below photo is one of his and shows how nice they were. 4 new moths and 2 new bats meant a very good night and hopefully I will be doing another event at the mere on wednesday.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Shard, Bank End and Glasson - 23/08/2011

Went out looking for a yeartick or two Over Wyre and although I didn't find any there were plenty of good birds around. I stopped off at the Shard Bridge first of all on the way out to chekc the wader and gull flocks to see if anything had dropped in. There were at least 400 Black Headed Gulls in one large flock however they were a bit distant so I could only find one adult Mediterranean Gull amongst them. A couple of Little Egrets fishing in the shallows and a flock of 127 Golden Plover were the only other sightings of note so I moved on the Bank End.

It was just over a year since my last visit to Bank End when I saw a couple of juvenile Yellow Wagtails with the Pied Wagtail flock on the marsh here. Well a feeling of de ja vu occured as once again I was looking at a pair of juvenile Yellow Wagtails only this time they were accompanied by a nice adult female. Amazingly these are my 8th, 9th and 10th Yellow Wagtails of the year in the Fylde despite having only ever seen 1 in the past.

The final stop was at Glasson to look out over the river at the waders however it was just the usual fair with several hundred each of Golden Plover and Lapwing along with about 90 Redshank and 50 Dunlin.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Patch - 22/08/11

My first check of the patch for a while as I hope to find a good migrant here some time during the open so I will be visiting a lot more in the next couple of months. In the crematorium a pair of Sparrowhawks circled overhead and a male Kestrel hunted over the neighbouring fields. On the pond the 2 White Cheeked Pintails were still in residence along with 48 Mallard, 2 Coot (including the colour ringed bird) and a family part of 4 Canada Geese. From here I went to Bispham Marsh which was surprisingly quite however the first few ducks are starting to arrive back and I had 2 each of Shoveler and Teal on the south half, the only migrant passerine was a Whitehtorat in the scrub to the south of here. Although the birds weren't mind blowing the dragonflies certainly made up for it with a male Emperor on the crem pond, a male Common Darter in the scrub and at least 7 Migrant Hawkers which seemed to be everywhere.

Skippool Creek - 20/08/11

Just catching up with a few days birding since I got back off holiday. I decided to check Skippool Creek to see how the wader numbers had changed since I went away but surpringly they were pretty similar. The adult Spotted Redshank had completed it's moult into winter plumage and had been joined by a juvenile bird. There were more gulls about with at least 3 Mediterranean Gulls (2 adults and a 2nd winter) and an adult Yellow Legged Gull in the area before they were all pushed off by the tide. The total for the watch was:
2 Spotted Redshank
3 Mediterranean Gull
1 Yellow Legged Gull
2 Greenshank
8 Ringed Plover
47 Black Tailed Godwit
1 Golden Plover
39 Dunlin
60+ Curlew
300+ Redshank
350+ Lapwing

Friday, 26 August 2011

France Day 11 - 18/08

A full day driving meant not many birds seen in France at all except a few each of Buzzard and Kestrel however after crossing the channel things started to pick up a bit, although the weather went downhill. We headed round the south of London and then up the M40 as we hoped this would be quieter, however I also hoped that I would be able to connect with the bird most associated with that particular stretch of road. After a flock of 6 Canada Geese flew over the motorway my dad spotted the first of 14 Red Kites (yeartick) including a few giving great views of what has to be one of my favourite species. This was the last addition to the trip list and took it to a grand total of 84, 9 more than my target. The full list is below with the highlights in bold:
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Black Necked Grebe
Night Heron
Great White Egret
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Mute Swan
Canada Goose
Honey Buzzard
Red Kite
Marsh Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Little Ringed Plover
Common Sandpiper
Mediterranean Gull
Black Headed Gull
Common Gull
Lesser Black Back Gull
Greater Black Back Gull
Herring Gull
Yellow Legged Gull
Common Tern
Little Tern
Black Tern
Whiskered Tern
Feral Pigeon
Collard Dove
Turtle Dove
Tawny Owl
Green Woodpecker
Grey Headed Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Sand Martin
House Martin
Meadow Pipit
Grey Wagtail
Pied Wagtail
Black Redstart
Mistle Thrush
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Long Tailed Tit
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Short Toed Treecreeper
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Reed Bunting
Corn Bunting

France Day 10 - 17/08

Final full day in France and my parents wanted to go back to Chambord to have a proper luck around the chateau in the morning so I joined them and it proved much more productive than the last visit. There were lots more butterflies around and amongst the ones I managed to identify were Map (nfm) and female Common Blue. There were also quite a few damselflies and dragonflies including Willow Emerald Damselfly (nfm). Birds were very vocal but unfortunately very elusive with several woodpeckers calling and also a rail sp in an area of reeds. I went in to look for it and looked down to reveal a Grass Snake not 30cm from my foot slowly uncurling itself before slinking away into the undergrowth! Nearby I found some of it's shed skin which I have kept and is now in my brothers room. Other repltiles in the area were Western Green and Common Wall Lizards.

France Day 9 - 16/08

More of the same really however a Honey Buzzard and a Common Buzzard sparing over the campsite early morning was a nice surprise, was just unfortunate that I didn't have my bins with me at the time. The day was spent just around the campsite, swimming and playing tennis however once again in the evening me and my Dad went down to Chambord to watch the mammals. There was a family group of 10 Boar from one of the hides including a tiny youngster.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

France Day 8 - 15/08

An absolutely awesome day as we had booked to do a 2 hour (10km) kayak down the river where we were staying getting brilliant views of the local birds. We all went in single kayaks and I quickly left the others behind as I got into my stroke rhythm and the first birds I saw were a small flock of Common Terns fishing right next to the kayak giving great views. Further downriver another party of terns approached me however the calls were different and they turned out to be my fourth species for the trip, Little Terns. Like my previous trips to the river there were plenty of Common Sandpipers and Little Egrets around the banks and sandy areas however I also managed to add Little Ringed Plover to the list when I spotted one on one of the shingle beaches. There were some large flocks of Lapwings in the area, just as I reached the bridge they all took off and looking up I spotted an Osprey circling right above me, magic! Towards the end of the stretch we were on a female Goosdaner took off from right next to me and headed off downriver allowing me to see all the ID features, which looking in the book later on was a good thing because apparently it is quite a rare sighting for the area in summer. The final sighting of the morning was another Osprey fishing in the same area as I saw 2 a few days previous.

Back at the caravan I spotted a bird scurrying up one of the oak trees but to my surprise it wasn't a Nuthatch it was a Short Toed Treecreeper, my first ever. Then during the night I heard a couple of Tawny Owls around the site although I failed to locate them.

Monday, 22 August 2011

France Day 7 - 14/08

The first proper rain of the holiday has us caravanbound for all the morning and into mid afternoon which gave me good chance to carry on reading the Darren Shan demonata books that I had taken with me on holiday (I took 5 books and I finished them all in 7 days!). Luckily by mid afternoon it had cleared up so once again we headed to Chambord and to a viewing platform where we were treated to some great views of at least 5 Boar, 37 Red Deer and 2 Coypu.

France Day 6 - 13/08

My dad agreed to take me to do some proper birding during the morning so we headed towards the town of St Viatre in the heart of the Sologne, a huge area filled with hundreds and hundreds of lakes, a massively important wetland area. The roads go past lots of the best lakes so we drove around for a bit and whenever we spotted a good lake we just pulled over and took a look. The first lake held the most birds with plenty of Black Necked Grebes fishing along with Great Crested and Little Grebes, Shoveler and Gadwall. Around the edges of the lake were lots of Little Egrets and a few Great White Egrets that towered over everything else! The next lake held a 30 strong flock of terns and a few came close enough to be identified as adult Whiskered Terns along with a few Common Terns mixed in as well, and then in the distance we heard a late Cuckoo calling. The rest of the lakes held much of the same however I think I heard a Little Crake at the last but it never showed which was a shame as it would have been a lifer for me. Most birds were wary and far away hence why the photos are terrible!

After lunch at the caravan we headed to the next to along the river from ours to book something for later in the holiday (find out what in a later post) and whilst me parents went to look round the town me and my brother went down to the river to see what was about. A pair of Ospreys gave brilliant views as they moved up and down river fishing although we never saw them complete a full dive so didn't catch anything. A few minutes later another large bird of prey flew downriver which turned out to be a gorgeous adult Honey Buzzard, which was mobbed by my first adult and juvenile Yellow Legged Gulls of the trip.

In the evening we went out for a meal but on the way we stopped off at one of the viewing platforms at Chambord to look for mammals and got distant views of a wild Boar and 5 Red Deer but we hadn't brought the binoculars so couldn't see them very well.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

France Day 5 - 12/08

Another day, another chateau, this time Chenonceau which is built across a river which I hoped would mean there would be a few birds around, I was wrong. On the way I spotted an adult Night Heron sitting on a tree by a pond next to the road but unfortunately we couldn't stop to get better views of photos. The woods around the car park at the chateau were alive with the noise of Nuthatch's and I counted at least 8 before giving up as they were moving around constantly. We looked around the inside of the chateau for a bit however I got bored (not my sort of thing at all!) and went to look around outside for birds. There were loads of House Martin nests around one of the towers and a few Pied Wagtails around the gardens but apart from that it was pretty quiet. Luckily we took a different route back to the campsite which meant going along the main road that went right by the river most of the way, and the first Osprey of the trip was seen almost immediately as we joined the road. We stopped off in the town of Blois on the way back so I could take a quick look out over the river, lots of Common Terns were fishing on the far bank however my eyes were drawn to a darker bird flying purposefully downriver, a juvenile Black Tern.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

France Day 4 - 11/08

A holiday with parents to the Loire area in France can only mean one thing, chateaus! Luckily we only visited two during the holiday however I will admit despite being boring inside they are pretty impressive buildings. Just 5 minutes down the road from out campsite was the largest chateau in the area, Chambord, surrounded by a huge walled area of forest full of birds and mammals (well that's what I was told!). There is a large straight lake next to the building which was devoid of bird life however there were several dragonflies around including a gorgeous Small Pincertail. There were also lots of butterflies around but they never landed proving a difficult identification challenge and I was only able to identify Large Tortoiseshell and Small Heath. There weren't many birds about although Sedge and Reed Warblers were heard in the areas around one of the observation platforms which are where you are meant to get good views of mammals in clearings in the woods. There weren't any about when we were there but apparently the best time is morning and dusk so we decided to come back another time. However on the way back in the car through the forest I spotted a large Boar close to the road, the first of the trip but definitely not the last.

Friday, 19 August 2011

France Day 3 - 10/08

Just like at home my mum was up early and was rewarded with a Red Squirrel scurrying along the ground at the back of the caravan, the only one any of us saw all trip. I slept like a log however all the others were woke by at least 1 Tawny Owl calling from the trees just above the van. I was woke however by the noise of a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling somewhere nearby and eventually it gave brief flight views extinguishing hope that it could have been one of the 7 species present in the forests around nearby Chambord! After breakfast I went with my parents down through the town to the river to see what birds could be found in the local area, although I certainly wasn't expecting how much I would see! A couple of Black Redstarts were feeding around the trees in a local park before we reached the river and immediately spotted plenty of Little Egrets and Grey Herons. A Turtle Dove flew out of the trees lining the bank of the river and a smaller heron flew along the opposite bank of the river, which through my bins I could see was my first ever Night Heron, a juvenile. On the river itself were plenty of Common Sandpipers calling loudly as they chased each other about, and a second summer Mediterranean Gull sitting on one of the many islands. Away from the birds there were loads of Banded Demoielles lining the shore, literally hundreds along the stretch I walked along, giving great views and allowing for a few photos.

France Day 2 - 09/08

A reasonably start and a half an hour drive saw us at the Eurotunnel terminal near Foulkstone on the south coast. The crossing itself was as you would imagine pretty unimpressive, however just 35 minutes we emerged in France near to Calais and on the way out of the terminal the road passes some marshes next to a petrol station. We pulled over I quickly noted one, then two, then three Marsh Harriers hunting close by along with 2 Great Black Back Gulls, Coots and a few Mute Swans. The campsite we stayed at is in a town called Muides sur Loire, which as the name suggests is on the beautiful Loire river in the north of mid France. This is about 5-6 hours drive from Calais which gave me plenty of time to add more species to the trip list (I set myself a target of 75 species for the trip).

It soon became obvious that birds of prey are more common in France that here in Britain. There were Kestrels and Buzzards every couple of miles or so along with smaller numbers of Sparrowhawks and on one occasion a gorgeous juvenile Montague's Harrier. We also spotted a few mammals including plenty of Rabbits and a pair of Roe Deer that were feeding on the edge of a small copse.

Eventually we reached the campsite and our static caravan which would be home for the next 9 days. There were lots of tall oak trees between the caravans which proved to be a haven for small birds, with lots of Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinches, Wrens and lots of noisy Nuthatch's. Still no photos as I hadn't unpacked anything but there will be plenty in the coming posts.

France Day 1 - 08/08

Setting out from home around mid-day on the way to our overnight stop off in Maidstone before going on the train to Calais the next morning, light drizzle hampered the birds seen and the only things of note added between home and the motorway were a single Lapwing and a Buzzard. The rain continued on and off till about Birmingham where Swift and Sparrowhawk were seen but little else of interested was noted at all on the rest of the journey which was slightly disappointing.

Arriving at the Travelodge in Maidstone about 6pm me and my mum set out to Burham Down about 10 minutes away, a chalkhill area where I could have seen Silver Spotted Skipper and Chalkhill Blue butterflies. Unfortunately it was pretty windy and had also clouded over resulting in almost no butterflies at all, in fact 2 Meadow Brown were the only ones seen in half an hour of searching! A Green Woodpecker was a mild consolation as I was heading back to the car but didn't go far to covering the sadness of missing some great butterfly species.

I'm back

Got back from holiday yesterday evening so will be updating the blog very soon. I'm going to be doing a post about each day over the next couple of days to give you a good idea of what I saw. 84 species of bird in total including 3 new species for my world list, you will have to wait and find out what though.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Shut Down

In a few hours I will be setting off on a family holiday to France for the next 10 days so will most likely be unable to get much internet access and therefore won't be able to post on here very much. We are staying in Maidstone overnight tonight and I am hoping to visit a local site for Silver Spotter Skipper butterflies aswell as possibly Chalkhill Blue and Brown Argus. I am hoping to see Red Kite on the way down there and might even get a few lifers in France if I'm lucky. So till then Au Revoir and good birding.

Blackpool Air Show

No birds but a few pics from the Blackpool Air Show today. Highlight was the awesome avro Lancaster Bomber but the red arrows were as always pretty spectacular!

Wader Fest

Yesterday afternoon I checked down at Skippool Creek as the tide was coming in to watch the waders as they were pushed up into an area close to where I view from giving me good views and a good chance to find something more interesting amongst them. When I arrived the water was already pretty high so a large group of waders was already present and I set about grilling the Redshank and Dunlin flock. The total in the roost was:
1 winter plumage Spotted Redshank (same individual as a few weeks ago)
1 Greenshank
1 Golden Plover
2 summer plumage Black Tailed Godwit
150+ Dunlin (mixture of plumages)
80+ Curlew
1 Oystercatcher!
40+ Lapwing
400+ Redshank

Saturday, 6 August 2011

More Butterflies from Yesterday

Just a few more photos from yesterday of the various species we saw: Small Copper, Small Skipper, Ringlet, Common Blue, Peacock, Scotch Argus, Dark Green Fritillary.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Awesome Butterflies

After reading Zac's blog post about his trip to Arnside Knott and Warton Crag on Tuesday (see here) where he saw 23 Butterfly species I couldn't resist a trip back up there so I asked Ash and Aaron if they wanted to come along and they willingly agreed. The weather forecast was for brightening conditions as the day progressed although the temperatures wouldn't be great, only around 16 degrees which could put the dampeners on seeing many species. We arrived at Warton Crag around 12:30 and set off up the right hand side of the crag where we quickly added Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and Small White to the day list but after this it was pretty quiet till we came out onto a steep incline surrounded by short grass and bramble patches. Here we saw several Peacocks, Red Admiral and a female Common Blue which briefly tricked us into being a Northern Brown Argus! Zac had told me about a meadow after a path through the woods where he had seen most of his species, so we were looking for this however had no idea where it was. We walked around for about half an hour in search of what we had dubbed "The Fabled Meadow of Warton" as we completely failed to find it and followed a path back down to the bottom of the crag that actually brought us about a mile along the road from the car park! The walk back produced Green Veined White and Large White, and when we got back to the car park my dad pointed out a Grayling on the path. Whilst watching both of the resident Peregrines flying around in the company of a Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and 2 Ravens I rang Zac and got directions to the meadow we were looking for, so a quick drive down the road and a short walk up the hill found us walking out into a clearing that looked perfect for butterflies. Despite the forecast being for only 16 degrees after walking up some pretty steep sections for over 2 hours we were boiling and the temperature was actually creeping over 20 degrees which had a dramatic effect on the number of butterflies flying around. We met a guy going a butterfly survey who told us there were several Brimstones around and whilst Ash spoke to him me and Aaron spotted this stunning Small Copper that gave brilliant views, only my second ever and definately one of my favourite species!

Speaking to the guy he pointed out a very worn High Brown Fritillary that flew past us and also several Gatekeepers in the area. I spotted what looked like a very worn Ringlet however he said he had never seen one up there so that made me doubt that I had seen one. He pointed out an area that was good for Brimstone so Ash went and had a look whilst me and Aaron stayed where we were. Whilst chasing a small brown butterfly I felt my phone ringing and new it would be Ash and sure enough he said he had just found a Brimstone so we ran to where he was and was greeted by a gorgeous male that was so much brighter than I was expecting, a brilliant yellow colour. It was so close that it was hard to photograph especially with the glaring sunshine, and whilst we were watching this I spotted a fresh Ringlet flying behind us that eventually landed on Aaron's hand! We added Small Skipper to the day list here and then headed off to Leighton Moss where we saw a juvenile Cuckoo (yeartick) from the Eric Morcambe Hide along with 3 Greenshank and a female Marsh Harrier which flew over.
After a quick stop off at the visitor centre to get a drink and look for Marsh Tit (unsuccessfully) we went to out final stop of the day, Arnside Knott where we hoped for Scotch Argus butterfly. Walking up the hill we saw a battered and then a pristine Dark Green Fritillary flying around before a dark butterfly caught our attention and after a brief chase it settled and allowed us to confirm it was a Scotch Argus, result! As it happened they were everywhere on the Knott and we must have had at least 75 in total, along with several Comma and a few more Graylings. So overall we got 18 species of Butterfly, 2 of which were new for Ash (Brimstone and Scotch Argus), 3 new for me (+Ringlet) and 4 new for Aaron (+Small Copper). I will post more photos tomorrow once I have sorted them out.