Sunday, 9 December 2018

Rubythroat; best bird ever

When on Fair Isle from mid October onwards each autumn you enter the territory of the bonkers rarities; those birds which raise the pulse to a new level when the WhatsApp group message goes off, or even if you are lucky to be the one to find the bird to start the island wide birder panic. Of these Siberian Rubythroat is one such bird and there can't be a birder in the country who does not dream of finding one. Whilst it has become a little more regular in its occurances in the UK in recent years, regular still be subjective, one still needs to be up on the northern isles to stand any realistic chance of connecting and with Fair Isle holding just about half of the British records it has to be the place to get one. I've been lucky in that I've seen two British Rubythroats, the male at Levenwick on Shetland and a female on Fair Isle but its still a bird I really want to see again and again. The male on Fair Isle this year was the second latest to have been found in the UK on the late date of 28th October, following the male found on Fair Isle in November 2017. 

As  I wasn't on the island at this time, I would have been home by several weeks I have found myself recalling the male in Holland in March 2016 that I and three others twitched. Some birders were dismissing this gem as an escape whilst others, like us, ignored this and went and saw it and it was worth the effort. Whilst the bird was often very confiding this is no different to those birds I've seen in China. 

So until I can see another male Rubythroat, and hopefully this time it will be on Fair Isle, I have revisited the video I took of the bird and loaded it here from Youtube. 

Due to file size constraints this isn't the full HD version but you definately get the idea.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Black-throated Diver - Gunners Park

When a Black-throated Diver appeared on the lake at Gunners Park a few days ago I was hoping it would linger till the wekend when I would have a chance to get down there. 

My morning visit resulted in the bird still being present but the weather was atrocious with very low cloud, rain and very little light so I really struggled with the camera settings with high ISO (minimum 1000) to get a shuter speed of at least 1/100th second. Awful. 

As a result most of the shots I took were blurred but a few were just salvagable and as can be seen it was, at times, an extremely showy bird. 

It seemed to be feeding quite well, though I didn't see it actually catch anything. It also struggled to get up the embankment as it apparently attmepted to make a cross land attempt to reach the sea. It got about 15-20metres or so before it retreated to the lake when a dog walker walked straight towards it with his two large hounds, dog walkers are an issue here. 

If the weather improves tomorrow I'll return and try again for improved images but for now here's my low light attempts.

This is by far and away the best views of a Black-throated Diver I have ever seen.

What are great bird

Pier Visit - 25/11/2018

A regular feature of a visit to Southend Pier are the Mediterranean Gulls which roost at the pier head with peak numbers always in winter when up to 40 can usually be found. Given the raised elevation of pier over the water some great photographic opportunities can be had, though ideally in brighter conditions that on today's visit. 

Adults and second-winters are great but I still think my favourite age group is first-winter.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Wonderful Warblers (few and far between)

A further result of the poor weather and wrong wind direction this autumn warblers were in thin supply. Normally Yellow-browed Warbler is amongst the commonest species encountered but this autumn we could only muster four birds. Other warblers were also thin on the ground but did include a very showy Willow Warbler at Quoy. 

The first was a mobile individual at Field that was shameless twitched, sort of, from further south on the island. Given the weather conditions I was perhaps looking a blank year so I had to make sure I got this bird. The weather at the time was deteriorating into another wet one so I couldnt spend much time with it as it moved around fencelines. 

Next was another mobile bird in the garden at Burkle.

Never pass up the opportunity to see a Yellow-browed Warbler.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Booted Warbler around your Boots

Following the quiet autumn on Fair Isle I was keen to see something decent when I came off the island and my primary targets were to be the River Warbler at Wester Quarff, the Palla's Warbler at Grutness, the White-rumped Sandpiper at Pool of Virkie and the Booted Warbler at Sumburgh.

Well typically it appears that there had been a clear out over night as there was no sign of the River Warbler, though I did find a Common Rosefinch, there was no sign of the Palla's Warbler, the one I wasnted to see the most, and the White-rumped Sand seemed to missing also, probably due to each of the beaches having dog walkers on them.

So this left me with the Booted Warbler and this one was at least still present. An not only was it still present it showed the best I have ever sene a Booted Warbler previously. At one point I was the only birder present with the bird nearly at my feet and to close to focus the camera on. 

Paradoxically being so close meant that many of the photos were not as good as they could have been, a lot of the bird would be out of focus due to the lack of depth of field. 

Still those here, taken in both out in the sun open and in the shade and show how it could turn from a tea coloured to frosty appearance.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

White-billed Diver at a seaside resort

Yesterday a White-billed Diver was found of North Kent at Margate and I paid little attention to the news, that is until I learnt it was a summer plumaged adult and by which time it was a little to late to go down and see it. 

If there bird was there today I would go and see it. 

It was indeed there and I set off with Sheryl to hopefully see my first Banana Billed Diver in 11 years. 

Traffic was reasonable on the way down and the bird was eventually seen off of the esplanade at Margate. 

For the most part it was way to far off for the camera as the tide was out but the views through the scope were excellent. We spent at least an hour and half watching the bird but once it started to drift out away from the shore we went off to look for the nearby Pallid Swift, which we did not see. 

The images here of the diver are about as good as I could get and are very heavy crops, thus the poorer end result than I would like, and I suspect the very good photos taken yesterday here by others was when the tide was more favourable and the bird was closer in to the beach. 

Still its a White-Billed, or Yellow-billed, depending on your preferences, Diver and it was a stunner.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Of Buntings and Finches

Numbers of Snow and Lapland Buntings were relatively low this year with only a scattering of Laplands and smaller flocks of Snow's. Of the Lapland Buntings only the bird at the Setter muck heap put on any sort of prolonged show whilst of the Snow Buntings seen the small flock at North Light and the individual on the cliffs at Furse were the only non flyby's.

Finches were represented in the main by Brambling, especially as we progressed into October and singles became cliff favouring flocks. The West Cliffs during the howling easterlies mid month were favoured and often flocks of 30-40 could be found in some of the sheltered Geo's. 

At the end of September the isle hosted at lest three lingering Common Rosefinch's and whilst I saw at least one of these birds at several different island crofts it was extremely flighty and never lingered to long where people were present. I managed only a couple of quickly took shots when it landed on the fence at Quoy before it again flew off south.

Twite numbers seemed lower than usual this year, presumably again the winds in wrong direction playing their part, though several 20+ flocks were noted in favoured areas with this bird being at the Bulls Park crop strip.

Siskins and Redpolls also put in appearances but in low numbers and rarely lingered long but those that did and were photographed will feature in a latter post.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Southbound Geese

Early October on Fair Isle saw a lot of Geese move through and was one of the features of the autumn with flocks of Pink-footed, Greylag and Barnacle Geese all be seen in varying numbers with perhaps the most abundant species being Greylag Goose. 

Several flocks were seen on the deck, the Barnacle Goose flocks held multiple colour ringed birds, whilst individuals of Barnacle and Pink-footed Geese were rather approachable. 

Barnacle Geese, real wild Barnacle Geese and not the plastic feral population back home, are something special when they roam the island. 

Like Barnacle Geese the larger Greylag Geese have that little 'extra' when they involve wild birds on migration and not the tame bird that wander the local parks and marshes. 

And finally are the Pink-footed Geese. By the time we started to get flocks on the island many thousands had already arrived back in their various wintering areas so perhaps these were later leavers to the rest. There wasn't the large numbers this year on the island as with the other two species but a decent sized flock set down at various points on the island every now and then.

Autumn geese are the harbingers of winter further south but are no less exciting to see on migration.