Monday, 11 December 2017

Hardy Bardy 9th December

Barred Warblers have always held a certain allure over me, I'm not sure why exactly after all,
the majority of Barred Warblers we see in the U.K are drab grey first year birds.

I have been fortunate enough to have seen several Barred Warblers over the years mainly
along the east coast in the autumn, but also on the Greek island of Lesvos in the spring, I even managed to find my own, one October on St Agnes Isles of Scilly.

The one thing that all of my experiences with this chunky Warbler have had in common, is that they have been skulky and difficult birds to see for any length of time, so when word and photos of an
uncharacteristic showy bird at Titchfield Haven in nearby Hampshire arose from the cyber ether, a fiendish plan was hatched...

Apparently not that fiendish it would seem as several others from gods own county had also snuck off down the A34 for a peek at Sylv-zilla.

From left to right: Mauve Hawk, Tezzer, Anne Truby, Old Caley, Jim Hutchins.

Barred Warbler 1w Titchfield Haven above & below courtesy of Tezzer

Pennington Marshes.

With such incredible views of the star attraction early on, we were keen to make the most of our day in Hampshire, with Pennington Marshes a clear favourite in the list of birding options.

Bearded Tit courtesy of Tezzer

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Rock Pools & Rock Thrushes

Thursday 12th dawned and found myself and mrs Badger plus the mutt excitedly on our way down to Kernow to spend a week with my auntie, uncle and mrs Badgers parents.
All was well as we circumnavigated the various roads and juggernauts and partaking in what has now become the tradition of The Sedgemoor services with all of its pastoral delights (see below).   

Wholemeal vegetarian? Oh yes please sir!!

Cornwall in October can also be rather good for the old bird spotting game and I was very much looking forward to visiting those enchanted little valleys at the very end of Britain in search of 
kinetic dancing sprites and feathered waifs. 

I would also plan a few trips to the Hayle Estuary near St Ives to optically needle my way through 
the throngs of wildfowl, waders and long-legged beasties that inhabit, albeit temporarily, these tidal mudflats at this time of year.

I would also hope to rekindle my love of surfing and get back on the board after all of these years 
and catch a few waves. 

Well this was my plan... 

Cornish mizzle at Hayle. 

Celtic Connections.

A weekend of rest and relaxation spent within the family bosom would include time together and 
enjoying the spectacle of Floki's (the newest addition to the gang) first time on the beach.
I had visions of a joyous mutt running in slow motion along the shoreline, the Black Beauty theme
tune playing in my head as I looked on all misty eyed with quivering lip and bursting pride...

This all came crashing down around me when news of a Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush in Wales found me, and I had to explain to the mutt why the greatest event in dog and mans history had to end,
to be fair, man's best friend took it better than man's wife.

A30...  M5...  M49...  M4...  Sat Nav.

So having recently made most of this journey from Abingdon to Cornwall a day or two previously,
Saturdays 5am alarm duly bellowed like the evil timekeeping nazi it is, and under the cover of darkness I slipped out of the driveway like a thief in the night, the journey to the Brecon Beacons had commenced...

The nearly Severn (pound) crossing.

My journey took me up increasingly narrowing and winding roads through grey and damp scenery
before a congratulatory "you have arrived at your destination" recorded voice snapped me from my cosy and drifting solitude.

I had arranged to meet Elimenterry and the Mauve Hawk on site and eventually I found them on a hillside gazing longingly in to an empty quarry. 

Mauve Hawk all chillaxed and sh*t whilst captain foreground hits the crack pipe. 

I had surmised that the bird hadn't shown itself for some time due to the general milling around, any sort of milling, not only general, is never a good sign at a twitch, but people running, well that's usually a very good sign and true to form resulted in a scopeful of Rock Thrush.
(Thanks to Terry & Andy for the photos).   

Rock Thrush (big) BOOM.
Rock Thrush (small) BOOM.

Rock Thrush (on twig) BOOM.

Rock Thrush on a Rock hahahahahaha K-K-BOOM!!!

wObBLy bit of video of the star bird please view at 1080p HD ish.

This was the first time I had seen this attractive Thrush in the U.K and only the second time I had ever seen one, the first was a female on Lesvos in 2016. Rufous-tailed Rock Trush (to give it its full name) are usually seen... this is where I would normally copy info verbatim from a handy guidebook or website, it would imply a near encyclopedic knowledge of European birds and I'd sound like a top bird spotter, but we're all adults here so over to you Mr Collins.

Whilst watching the bird, familiar voices started to filter through, familiar voices from Oxfordshire.
It seems that the slim ornithological pickings currently available in our county had driven a small band of desperado's to leave in search of birds, any birds. 

Oz and Steve.
Living in a county so far from the coast means Oxfordshire doesn't get many rares, and geographical limitations combined with a seeming inability to manage water levels on a few of our key nature reserves within the county, sees birders running to the hills. 

From left to right: Stuart Thomson, Terry Sherlock, Jon Uren, Andy Last, Steve Roby, Steve Heath, and me.
As seen in this picture, Steve still has his electronic tags on but was willing to risk going 'back inside' for the
             chance to look at a bird.
So after saying my goodbyes to my birding chums, eleven a.m saw me retrace my journey, and three and a half hours later I was back in Cornwall in time for tea and medals.

Cornwall was on the whole pretty quiet for the remainder of the week with the much anticipated tail end of hurricane Ophelia bringing 80mph winds to the south west but little else.
It was even a little too wild to get the wet suit on and hit the surf at Newquay. 

The Coastguards Cottages at Porthgwarra

This Short-toed Lark near Sennen was nice to see (photo taken by Darren Underhill)
I was delighted to meet up with Mr & Mrs Old Caley a.k.a Nick and Anne Truby one morning at Kenidjack to explore this delightful little valley on the edge of St Just.

Hawfinch courtesy of Nick Truby

It wasn't long until we managed a view of one of the three Hawfinch that had set up residence and were part of a larger influx from the continent.

Read more about Nick & Annes Cornish trip in due course on the fantastic Old Caley's Diary

The man the legend Old Caley in his favoured habitat.
Although the species number was fairly low October 2017 will be very fondly remembered for the
many Firecrests present they were seemingly everywhere.

Firecrest above and below courtesy of Nick Truby

Evocative calls from iconic birds...Cornish Choughs courtesy of Old Caley. 

This Spoonbill was at the Hayle Estuary on the RSPBs Ryan's Field.

So another wonderful trip in October birding the valleys and estuaries and spending time
with family and friends, always different, always wonderful, thank you Cornwall.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Deserts, Kings & Legends...

Dozmary Pool
It was to this dark, still and melancholic pool nestled within the bleak unforgiving landscape of Bodmin Moor that Sir Bedivere is said to have brought the dying King Arthur, who instructed him to cast Excalibur into the sullen waters of Dozmary Pool...

'King Arthur's final quest...'  painted in 1658 (and in black and white for some reason?)

A depiction of Sir Bedivere and the Kings final journey to cast the sword in to the lake.
They had very good signage back in the olden days, good signage and lovely cyclical home furnishings. 
The painting now resides in Rick Stein's 'Fishy on a Dishy' restaurant in Helston.   

Twice he returned to his dying king unable to dispose of such a beautiful sword, on the third occasion,however, the loyal knight had reluctantly complied with Arthur's wishes and thus when questioned was, according to Tennyson able to reply...

"...with both hands I flung him,wheeling him;      
  But when I looked again,  behold an arm,
  Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
  That caught him by the hilt,
  and brandish'd him Three times,
  and drew him under in the mere..." 

As well as an infamous dumping ground for antiquated military hardware, Dozmary Pool was also playing host to a rather fine drake Lesser Scaup which had originally come all the way from North America.

I was hoping for this!!!

But was more than happy with this...

Talking of legends... I met up with this one for a most enjoyable morning bird spotting at Hayle Estuary, Adam was able to point me in the right direction of many of the wintering specialities 
including an angelic Iceland Gull and a furtive Water Pipit on Ryan's Field.

White winger
Sneaky Whippit

Here's some video highlights of my trip to Kernow!!
Who knew that was coming!!

Please view at 1080p... some bits are fuzzy...two cameras...different frame rates...decisions had to be made...difficult decisions... it's a first world problem, but like, the struggle is real...right? 

Not featured on the vid is footage from a very pleasant morning spent at Trevose Headland looking for Lapland and Corn Buntings (a scarcity in Cornwall I'm reliably informed) I did manage some record shots of these birds which even in winter plumage are rather special.


All too soon our time in Cornwall with my aunt and uncle had come to an end but a detour on the way home into neighbouring Devon was just the ticket to lift the mood.

And so it was that we traversed the tiny little roads of south Devon winding our way through chocolate box villages and hub rubbing verges down to Thurlestone on the southern coast.

We parked, as instructed, in the visitors car park adjacent to the small golf course and walked the one hundred or so yards to the small beach all the while in glorious warm sunshine...
there to greet us was the U.K's longest staying Desert Wheatear.

Quite pleased with how this came out especially from a bridge camera
it would of course been a whole load f**king better without 
the ring on its leg!!!

Desert Wheatear 1w male please view at 1080p HD all filmed on the Nikon P900 (no fuzz all buzz).
He was actually singing quietly which was a privilege to hear though unfortunately the mic didn't pick it up so it's just the 'guitar jazz' for you I'm afraid.  

Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Rocky end to the Year

Courtesy of Jim Hutchins

On the 27th of December news broke (well leaked) on to the internet of a Blue Rock Thrush that
had taken up residence in a suburban estate within the Cotswold town of Stow-on-the-Wold.
Being just across the border in Gloucestershire I went to have a look at this mediterranean species.

Blue Rock Thrush Stow-on-the-Wold Glos Please view at 1080p HD

I encounter these fabulous birds each spring on Lesvos where their melodic and melancholy call
can be heard from a rocky outcrop echoing through a warming and waking valley, perhaps the
chimney pots and television antennae of this cul de sac were the next best thing.

There are the inevitable discussions regarding the provenance as a mid winter and an inland location
may perhaps suggest a captive origin.

A quintessential Cotswold scene.


Despite the festive time of year, I was expecting to encounter carnage 
on the morning of the 28th within the bucolic cotswold town but was 
pleasantly surprised by the welcoming residents of Fisher 
Close which saw one besieged homeowners kindly sharing a 
Christmas chocolate biscuit selection with grateful bird spotters.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Busy Weekend 17th/18th December

Courtesy of Elementerry

When this Masked Wagtail (Moticilla alba personata) turned up in a small village in Pembrokeshire a few weeks ago, a plan was formulated to go and see this first for the U.K. 
Masked Wagtail breed in central southern Asia from Iran to Mongolia and this bird should have been wintering in the Indian subcontinent.

Masked Wagtail please view at 1080p HD

Courtesy of Elementerry.

Severn Bridge on a misty winter morning.

200 miles from Oxford we found The Wickster continuing his walking list!

Wiltshire Sunday 18th December 

Cattle Egrets please view at 1080p HD

I simply cannot get enough of these charismatic diminutive Egrets wherever they are, I've been fortunate to encounter them several times over the years in the U.K as well as further afield in 
Lesvos and the Gambia. As a species Cattle Egrets are widespread throughout the world and the hope is that they will in time, follow in the footsteps of Little Egrets and colonise the U.K.