Friday, 28 September 2012

Dowitcher in Dorset

So for my last birding trip in the UK for a few months, it was decided that we would hit Dorset for the day, primarily for the Short-Billed Dowitcher at Lodmoor but also as it always makes a lovely day out. Upon arriving at Lodmoor in bright sunshine, the Dowitcher was showing on cue only 100 yards away, where it fed on the edge of the long grass for around 5 minutes before disappearing into the reeds. It was supported by a cast that included a single Bar-Headed Goose, Sparrowhawk, Common Sandpiper, singing Cetti's Warblers and small numbers of ducks.

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

We spent the rest of the day between Stanpit marsh and Ferrybridge; there were good numbers of waders including Black-tailed Godwit, Knot and a single Curlew Sandpiper! There was also plenty of vis mig, with Wheatears, Swallows, Meadow Pipits and Linnets all moving in good numbers.

A final ringing session before my trip this morning proved fruitful, and again migration was obvious. We easily hit double figures of Chiffchaff and Blackcap despite a shower interupting proceedings. However, there were two birds that easily stood out amongst the rest, and are real contenders for birds of the year at the Mumbles! One, a lovely juvenile Spotted Flycatcher, my first in the hand, and the other.... This stunning female Firecrest! So a very nice send off for me, and now I'm frantically packing for Madagascar!

Firecrest, Regulus ignicapilla

Firecrest, Regulus ignicapilla

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Fair Isle Finale

Well this will be my last post from Fair Isle (actually being done retrospectively at home). What an amazing experience, although it does seem that I left a few days too early; needless to say I was more than gutted when I saw what had turned up on Sunday. That is not to say that I didn't see some amazing birds, it just means I'll have to go back! So here are the last few pictures I took there, including my first Marsh Warbler, Skylark, Whinchat (in the hand) and a rather rare and tiny eastern Grasshopper Warbler; its' wing length was 3mm below the range of that of our resident Grasshopper Warblers.

Marsh Warbler, Acrocephalus palustris

Skylark, Alauda arvensis

Whinchat, Saxicola rubetra

Common Grasshopper Warbler, Locustella naevia

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Why is There a River in the Garden?

With some fairly heavy spells of rain over the last few days, a river was probably more likely than the bird that was trapped in the nets a few mornings ago! Having had almost constant westerly winds for the past week, we weren't expecting much in from the continent, so you can imagine the excitement when a visitor came running into the ringing room this morning, trying to explain through his excitement that there was an unstriped Locustella in the nets, and that he was certain that it was a River Warbler. That is indeed, what it turned out to be!
This little bird breeds in Eastern and Central Europe then migrates down to East Africa, so how it had managed to battle through the winds and end up here is a mystery. What makes it more special is that it is Fair Isles' second record of the year.

River Warbler, Locustella fluviatilis

River Warbler, Locustella fluviatilis. Picture by Will Miles

River Warbler, Locustella fluviatilis and me (not sure what the face is all about). Picture by Will Miles.
 I also managed to finally catch the Mealy Redpoll that has been hanging around the obs for the last few days. This was a first for me in the hand, and it was a lovely fluffy individual, looking like it has come from somewhere rather more cold that Fair Isle!!

Mealy Redpoll, Carduelis flammea rostrata

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Finally, a Piece of the Action!

So the strong westerlies that have been sweeping the country over the last few days has brought in all manner of American waders to UK shores, and we were beginning to wonder if we were going to get in on the action at all. Luckily, yesterday we did as A Buff-Breasted Sandpiper turned up on the South of the island. The bird remained and we easily twitched, giving superb views, sometimes at very close range. The Buff-Breasted Sandpiper breeds up in the tundra of North America and winters in South America, making it a very long distance migrant. It is one of the commonest American waders to visit our shores, but none-the-less it is still a lovely little bird. This lover of short grasslands was first found on the island "golf course."

Buff-Breasted Sandpiper, Tryngites subruficollis. With juvenile Ringed Plover, Charadrius hiaticula

On the same day, we were also joined by c1000 Pink-Footed Geese seeking shelter from the fog. These noisy migrants could be heard all over the north of the island for the day, before most of them left last night. It was quite something being up on the hills during census and having a flock of 800 passing at virtually eye-level. This photo is of one of the smaller flocks, containing roughly 130 birds.

Pink-Footed Goose flock, Anser brachyrhynchus

I woken up again this morning by Will, this time offering me a Sparrowhawk as a ringing tick. Needless to say that I was very cautious when first given it, but it was amazing to have such an impressive predator in the hand!

Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus

My quest for the ever growing population of Lapland Buntings on the island continues, having bottomed out no less than four times when trying to see one!

More Musings From Fair Isle

South Lighthouse, Fair Isle

A nice picture of the South Lighthouse to start this post off. A few birds have started arriving in the last few days with Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Red Breasted Merganser and Knot all being added to the list (this is being written retrospectively, there are some exciting birds here at the moment!). In the mean time, our attention has turned to fungi and this rather scarce plant! This is Oysterplant, Mertensia maritima. It gets its name due to the fact its leaves taste like oyster, but having never tried oyster I can't comment. It is rather pretty though, and Shetland is an important site for this declining beach-loving species. Its seed can be spread via the sea so it can colonise new beaches readily, however grazing and disturbance often means these new colonies are unsuccessful.

Oysterplant, Mertensia maritima

Our second Arctic Warbler of the season (possibly third) is still showing well in one of the crop strips, so I was able to grab some nice shots of it.

Arctic Warbler, Phylloscopus borealis

Arctic Warbler, Phylloscopus borealis

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Another Update From Fair Isle

So, in Fair Isle terms, the last few days have been rather quiet in terms of new arrivals. This does not include the arrival of a new Arctic Warbler which was trapped and ringed and two Common Rosefinch which I was lucky enough to get my hands on!

Arctic Warbler, Phylloscopus borealis

Common Rosefinch, Carpodacus erythrinus

In the mean time we have kept ourselves busy trapping waders in various ways, resulting in Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Sandling. There are still 5 very elusive Knot that keep evading us! Also, by way of wading into the sea at 11.30 at night, we managed to catch this juvenile Common Gull, the photo of which is courtesy of Sammy Fraser.

Sanderling, Chalidris alba

Common Gull, Larus canus