Friday, 28 August 2015

Moonlit Aurora...

A quick look on twitter last night and I saw that the Aurora was putting on a good show and a quick look out of the window did indeed show some green. We decided to go and have a look from Cresswell, and at first it wasn't that impressive, just a green band across the sky. We weren't too surprised about that given the strong moonlight.


By 00:10 it was starting to fade but at 00:16 we started noticing the first green pillars appearing.


I had a feeling the Aurora was about to get even better and at 00:19 it did. The green became much brighter and there were pillars of purple stretching high into the sky. The most impressive bit was the fact that you could see the colours and bands of light moving with the naked eye. Despite not being as colourful as last year's show, the fact that it was so easily visible with the naked eye made it just as good, and perhaps if the moon wasn't up it would have been even better...








 By the time we left the Aurora was fading quite quickly.



Tuesday, 25 August 2015

What a day!!

An arrival of migrants on Sunday afternoon meant we were keen to get back up to Holy Island on Monday. Thankfully it did not disappoint!

After an early start, we arrived on the island at half seven. The sun was out and without any wind it was feeling pretty warm already. We started at Chare Ends and our very first bird of the day was a brilliant Wood Warbler in the sycamores, the first time I'd seen one on passage. We had a good feeling about the day at that point!

The rest of the bushes there held good numbers of common migrants. When we reached the willow in between Chare Ends and The Excavations my dad whistled me around to his side of the tree. He'd found an Icterine Warbler! The bird showed well as it made the most of the morning heat. It also shared the willow with 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Pied Flycatcher, a Garden Warbler and some Willow Warblers.

In a willow near the Excavations I managed my third self-found Wryneck in five days. It was interesting to see it being mobbed by a Willow Warbler. Shortly after my dad found a different Wryneck at Chare Ends. Both birds were quite flighty and failed to provide a good photo opportunity. There was no scarcities at the Straight Lonnen or in the village, but more common migrants kept our spirits up.

By now the number of tourists had built, so we decided to head down to the Snook. At the plantation I got a very brief view of a bird that I was sure was a Barred Warbler. After another hour it didn't show again, but was confirmed later by other observers. There was also 3 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and 4 Garden Warblers in here.

In the Snook House garden I spotted another Icterine Warbler in the sycamores. A few brief views only of this bird. Just to the west the juvenile Red-backed Shrike was showing. After some fieldcraft and a coating of Pirri-Pirri Birs I got a photo of the Shrike which I'm quite pleased with.

Also on the Snook we missed yet another Icterine Warbler and Wryneck which had been seen by others. 5 Whinchats were perched on a dune slack here. When we came back to the plantation to try and get another view of the Barred Warbler, three birders told us about a Greenish Warbler that they'd found at the Excavations, and showed us a good photo of it. Having only seen about a second of a Greenish Warbler before I successfully persuaded my dad to drive us back into the village.

Once we had legged it through the dunes and reached the Excavations we started searching. Forty minutes later we could only find a single Reed and Willow Warbler, so started to head back to the car. On the way back we noticed a movement in the last willow in the Excavations. Then out popped the Greenish Warbler! This brilliant little bird gave us some great views as it actively moved about in the bushes, and I enjoyed hearing it call once. It took a while to get a photo of it in the open as it never stayed still for very long. By the time I managed the light was starting to fade.

After 11 hours we were completely exhausted but very happy with our day on Holy Island. Here's the full migrant counts...

1 Greenish Warbler
2 Icterine Warbler
1 Barred Warbler
2 Wryneck
1 Red-backed Shrike
1 Wood Warbler
20 Garden Warbler
20 Pied Flycatcher
8 Spotted Flycatcher
4 Redstart
10 Whinchat
39 Willow Warbler
12 Chiffchaff
1 Whitethroat
1 Blackcap
2 Reed Warbler

Greenish Warbler
Red-backed Shrike
Icterine Warbler and Willow Warbler in the willow between Chare Ends and the Excavations.
 Icterine Warbler in the garden at Snook House.
Wood Warbler
Spot the Wryneck!

Pied Flycatchers
Garden Warbler
Willow Warbler

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Lightning strikes twice...

Another self-found Wryneck on Holy Island today just 3 days after my first, this one in the dunes near the end of the Straight Lonnen.

I saw it fly out of the grass into a nearby hawthorn. I told my dad that I suspected I'd just seen a Wryneck and shortly after he confirmed it when he got a brief view of the bird sat on a branch. After a short wait it came into the open and sat there, allowing a more prolonged view than the bird a few days ago! We last saw the Wryneck head back into the middle of the Hawthorn.

After looking through my photos I'm pretty sure it's two different birds we've seen recently, and perhaps the bird reported on the Snook after we left was the same as the bird I saw on the 20th...

Here's the list of the other migrants we saw today...

2 Pied Flycatcher
6 Whinchat - including four together at Snook House.
c.6 Willow Warbler
2+ Chiffchaff


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wryneck & Icky...

Despite spending five hours on Holy Island we never left the Snook. When we arrived we settled into our usual routine of one of us walking around the back of the bushes while the other waits on the opposite side to wait if anything pops out. Straight away my dad got a brief view of an Icterine Warbler in the plantation just east of Snook House.

An hour later there was no further sign of the Warbler, so I decided to walk around the back of the plantation again. It was then I noticed a shape on a dead branch. A quick look through the bins confirmed my suspicion; a Wryneck! I managed to raise the camera and fire off a few shots before it flew off the branch, and we couldn't find it again.

The highlight of a search around the Half Moon Slack and nearby pines was a brief male Redstart. Back at the plantation a small group of birders had appeared hoping to see the Wryneck. The Icterine Warbler showed briefly once on a branch and twice in flight before disappearing again. At least I managed to see it this time!

The totals were:

1 Wryneck
1 Icterine Warbler
1 Redstart
1 Garden Warbler
1 Reed Warbler
1 Yellow Wagtail -  flew over.
1 Merlin
2 Chiffchaff
3+ Willow Warbler

Wryneck - the intricate plumage details on the Wryneck makes it one of my favourite birds.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Norfolk - Days 7 & 8

A couple of twitches on our last two days. First the Icterine Warbler at Burnham Overy. It could be very elusive at times but showed well in the end, with a Pied Flycatcher in the same bushes.

And our last bird of the trip: the Red-footed Falcon at Willow Tree Fen. It also showed well but at quite long range. In the end we gave up with taking photos and just enjoyed the bird, so below are some of the worst photos you'll see of the bird! A Brown Hawker also patrolled the grassland here.

Icterine Warbler

Red-footed Falcon

Norfolk - Days 5 & 6

On the morning of day five (12th) we were just planning to have a family day out at Hindringham Hall, but in the end I stayed around the Medieval Fish Ponds in the gardens because of the number of dragonflies there. The most numerous species was the Small Red-eyed Damselfly, with at least 40 on the ponds. Male Emperors patrolled the water's edge where there was a few females ovipositing. Common Blue Damselflies and Common Darters were also there.

Afterwards we went to RSPB Titchwell. The number of birds was impressive! We saw 21 different waders around the reserve and there was 17 Spoonbills altogether. Here's the highlights...

17 Spoonbill
6 Spotted Redshank - one in summer-plumage.
6+ Bearded Tit
1 Wood Sandpiper
150+ Ruff
50+ Black-tailed Godwit
125+ Bar-tailed Godwit
200+ Avocet
1 Little Ringed Plover
1 Whimbrel
1 Greenshank
9 Grey Plover
3 Yellow-legged Gull
1 Mediterranean Gull
2 Little Egret

 A walk from Morston to Cley the next day resulted in a flock of 9 Greenshank, a Whimbrel and 8 Little Egret. A Hobby flew over Weybourne.

That night we had our final look at the Cley gull roost. Our fifth Caspian Gull of the week was a distinctive third-summer, and 15+ Yellow-legged Gulls were there along with a Little Gull. A summer-plumage Spotted Redshank was our first at that site as was a Wood Sandpiper and 2 Egyptian Geese.

Small Red-eyed Dasmelfly

Emperor with a Common Blue Damselfly

Caspian Gull
Wood Sandpiper

Norfolk - Days 3 & 4

On our third day (10th) we decided to spend some time at Cley. The number of waders was spectacular, especially as there appeared to have been an influx of Black-tailed Godwits that day...

350+ 'Icelandic' Black-tailed Godwit - only 3 juveniles!
1 'Continental' Black-tailed Godwit - a distinctive colour-ringed juvenile.
40+ Ruff
1 Curlew Sandpiper
3+ Common Sandpiper
1 Yellow-legged Gull - adult.
1 Marsh Harrier
1 Little Gull

1 Small Red-eyed Damselfly
1 Brown Hawker
1 Emperor
1 Holly Blue

Another look at the Cley roost on the 10th failed to produce any Caspians, but 7+ Yellow-legged Gulls and 2 Little Gulls were there. 2 Green Sandpipers were the first we saw that week, and a Barn Owl hunted in front of the hide later on. Several low passes from some RAF Tornadoes also kept me amused!

'Continental' Black-tailed Godwit
Curlew Sandpiper

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Norfolk - Days 1 & 2

Last week we had a family break in Norfolk and managed to fit in some decent trips birding!

On day one we had our first look at the Cley gull roost. An adult Caspian Gull was present and a stunning first-summer appeared later on. The number of Yellow-legged Gulls was impressive (compared to what we get in the north-east!), with at least 12 present.

A good forecast for the next day persuaded us to go to Kelling Water Meadows to look for the Red-veined Darters which had been seen there recently. Sure enough they were present along with a host of other dragonflies some of which we don't often get to see in Northumberland...

7+ Red-veined Darter
10+ Emperor
10+ Black-tailed Skimmer
1 Banded Demoiselle
1 Migrant Hawker
2 Southern Hawker
Common Darter
Common Blue Damselfly
Blue-tailed Damselfly

1 Holly Blue
5+ Gatekeeper
10+ Common Blue

A Red Kite flew over Holkham Pines in the afternoon, before we had another luck at the Cley gull roost. Today there was 3 Caspian Gulls (yesterday's first-summer and 2 adults, looking at my photos I think they were both different to yesterday's bird). Slightly fewer Yellow-legged Gulls this evening with 7+, and a single adult Mediterranean Gull.

Back at our cabin in the forest I saw my first Perseid meteor of the year.

First-summer Caspian Gull on the first evening.

One of day two's adult Caspians.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull

Red-veined Darters - the last photo's pretty poor but it shows the 'classic' Red-veined Darter pose quite well.
Migrant Hawker
Southern Hawker