Friday, 25 September 2009

18 Sep 09 - Burnham Overy Dunes - A taste of autumn

Headed out to the north coast this morning for a dawn(ish) raid on Burnham Overy Dunes. Got there at about 7.30 and bird the dunes, into the west end of Holkham Pines until 14.30. I was pretty knackered by the end of it, having kicked and booted every likely looking bush from Gun Hill to Holkham. The highlights of the day was a fly-over Lapland Bunting and a nice Snow Bunting (perhaps my earliest Norfolk record ever?) on the boardwalk which decided to fly off just as I got my camera on it. There were quite a few migrants in the dunes, although nothing to get exited about: 8 Redstarts, 5 Lesser Whitethroats, 6 Northern Wheatears and 2 Pied Flycatchers (in the pines), as well as about 1000 Pink-footed Geese over Holkham freshmarsh. Still plenty of hirundines about, with roughly 200 Barn Swallows over the staithe on the high tide.

Northern Wheatear

Common Redstart (male)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

28 Aug - 4 Sep, Cornwall. A Seawatchers guide on how to arrive too late and leave to early

What have a good joke and seawatching got in common?
And my awful timing whilst on a family holiday in Cornwall last week means that the joke is well and truly on me. My first bit of bad timing is excusable, I suppose. We couldn't move into our self-catering cottage at Pendeen until 4pm on 28 Aug, so by the time I arrived at Pendeen Watch, I'd already missed a Little Shearwater, Wilson's Petrel, Yelkouan Shearwater, Cory's Shearwater, 6 Great Shearwaters and 5 Sabine's Gulls. Anyway, I did manage to see 2 Great Shearwaters, 5+ Grey Phalaropes, Red-necked Phalarope (a real mega in Cornwall), 2 adult Sabine's Gulls plus lots of Balearic and Sooty Shearwaters. I also managed to miss a Wilson's Petrel that when passed whilst I was there through a combination of having a rather narrow field of view in my 20-60 zoom eyepiece and pretty bad directions from the finder of the bird.
My next bit of bad timing came two days later at Porthgwarra. I'd been seawatching from dawn, but had to leave at about 10.00 to get back for breakfast. Anyway, at 11.27, one of THREE Fea's Petrels that I was unknowingly about to miss over the next 4 days, passed PG that morning. I can accept missing these birds as they were all fairly well in the middle of the day and being on a family holiday meant that I really was never going to be there long enough to witness any of these sightings.
The last bit of bad timing is really inexcusable though. The wind had been strong SW for 3 days and was due to turn NW on 3 Sep, classic conditions for a great Pendeen seawatch. Due to the inclement weather, Angela and Matthew said they didn't mind me spending the day at Pendeen, so I headed out at dawn to join the 30 or so other birders that had gathered, anticipating a good days seawatching. Although the Manx Shearwaters were passing at a rate of about 4000 per hour, the morning started badly for me, failing to get onto 2 different Wilson's Petrels, but after seawatching for 12 hours I'd notched up a decent list, having seen 1 Great Shearwater, 2 Cory's, Sabine's Gulls, 3 Grey Phalaropes, a few Storm Petrels, plus lots of Balearic and Sooty Shearwaters and Great and Arctic Skuas. Things had really tailed off by 6.30 pm, so at 6.50 I headed off back home to buy fish and chips for the family as a 'thank you' for not complaining about me spending nearly the whole day birding. But, 30 minutes later, I found myself gazing in wretched anguish at the message on my pager: "Cornwall MADEIRAN PETREL flew west past Pendeen at 7.08pm". The bird had taken a few minutes to go past and Mark Golley had tried to call me to let me know, but the phone reception was pretty week in the cottage and it had gone straight to voicemail.
Oh well! That's birding for you. If you don't stay until the end, or don't check that last bush, or wait for that small wader to turn around, you don't know what you're going to miss.

Anyway, I did see some good birds during the holiday other than the seabirds listed above. The juvenile Citrine Wagtail at Marazion Marsh RSPB was nice and provided some good video (see below) as was the Baird's Sand which showed well on the beach at Marazion.

This is a short video of the Citrine Wagtail

This is a longer video.

Baird's Sandpiper (juvenile), Marazion Beach.

Baird's Sandpiper (juvenile), Marazion Beach.