Friday, January 27, 2012

With just four days to go until we fly to Anguilla, it seems that the photo backlog just isn't going to get dealt with. It's a shame that a load of interesting stuff isn't going to make it to the blog. For instance these White-fronted Goose shots taken at Seaton Common last week. Well, they have made it now, but other stuff hasn't. The geese were well-grilled by Martin Garner here:

The flock of European albifrons birds had picked up a Greenland flavirostris somewhere during their travels. The darker looking first-year Greenland bird (bottom two photos), besides its orangy bill, also differed in several other ways. The much reduced pale fringing to the mantle and wing coverts helped produce the overall darker appearance of the Greenland. The Greenland also has darker greater coverts rather than the pale silvery centers on the European birds. The flank line is narrower and less distinct on the Greenland and the tail, best seen in the bottom photo, has much reduced white tips. (c) Richard Brown

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's been a fantastic three days. We've been cannon netting on Seal Sands, hiking in the mountains above Bassenthwaite and on the way back from the Lakes we picked up a few additions to the yearlist at Leighton Moss, most notably Glossy Ibis and Bittern. So we're now on 116 for the year, just ten ahead of our Norfolk rivals Tonk and Aimes. But we're about to depart to Dog Island for seven weeks, giving them the chance to build an impressive lead (and they've already nailed the two mega stowaways down in Hampshire). A curry at the Roti in Norwich is at stake.

The Soggy Ibis near Leighton Moss. There's been twenty or so in the UK this year, many of which may originate from Spain. There seems to be more and more European Glossies wintering in the UK rather than following their traditional winter routes to Africa. This species is no stranger to pioneering journeys to new areas. The American population of this migratory species is thought to have been self propagated by European birds heading over to Northern South America in the 1800s. (c) Richard Brown

Friday, January 20, 2012

Got a bit of birding in this morning and picked up the first Bewick's SwanWhooper Swan and Red Grouse we've seen this year. Not that we're in to county listing, but the swans were one field into North Yorkshire from the Cleveland border. There was no sign of the two Rough-legged Buzzards reported from Sleddale yesterday, but then they do seem to disappear for long periods.

The Whooper, second from right, is a long-stayer no doubt pleased with a bit of company (in homage to the appalling script for the BBC's Earth Flight we now intend to be as anthropomorphic as possible). Thomas Bewick, who also lends his name to a North American Wren and a primary school in Newcastle, was an incredibly gifted geordie wood engraver who in the late 1700s produced the History of British Birds. He is also thought to be one of the first people to have recognised that we all have unique fingerprints; it's an interesting coincidence that the bill patterns of Bewick's Swans are also unique to an individual. (c) Richard Brown

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

We've been very busy trotting around Wales and the North of England seeing friends and family, and preparing for the next seven weeks in the Caribbean. But we eventually got out today to see a bird or two! This morning the year-list stood at 95 (which pleases us considering the amount of non-birding days we've had so far this year). We decided to go for a species we didn't manage to see last year - a Cattle Egret at Hempholme near Tophill Low Nature Reserve. We got there in good time, but rumours were that it could be anywhere! We set off to the canal, then back again, then back to the canal, across a VERY muddy field, through a farm, into a village. We decided to split up. Rich's parents went left, and we took a right. We stumbled across a fantastic field full of winter thrushes but couldn't find the egret. Then a flustered Izzy (Rich's mum) came running towards us waving furiously. We should have gone left.

The Cattle Egret at Hempholme was picked up by Rich's dad. Eventually there were about seven of us watching it. Plus a cat which was fortunately spotted by the egret. In only five months during 1997, the estimated British population of 9,000,000 pet cats was thought to have brought home roughly 92 million prey items including approximately 27 million birds. That's well over 50,000,000 birds a year. It seems a heavy price to pay for keeping an animal that only wants its dinner off you. In The USA cats kill hundreds of millions of birds! gives further details. (c) Richard Brown

So having started the day at 95 species for the year, we finished on 100. These two Smew at Watton Nature Reserve were alongside a Little Egret, and a Barn Owl was sat in the hedgerow behind the lakes. (c) Richard Brown

Friday, January 6, 2012

We've been out on Hartlepool Headland again, mainly to sample Chris Brown's amazing rhubarb wine. But we also spent some time trying out his Whoosh Net down on the Beach. It was still dark when we left the house, impressive considering how much wine was imbibed. But it wasn't until lunchtime that we finally managed to catch four Turnstone and a Rock Pipit. Plenty of Herring Gulls and a Glaucous Gull came down to bread and the long-staying Mediterranean Gull happily took all Rich's chips, but we couldn't lure them into a catching area. We also enjoyed a brief diversion to see a second-winter Iceland Gull hanging out at Parton Rocks. Up at Giselle's we again went to see the Lesser Scaup at Marden Quarry and a couple of Scaup at Hurworth Burn were new for the year. 

With around 60 Iceland Gulls in Britain at the moment, it wasn't a surprise that a few of these delicate white-wingers reached Cleveland. The pale eye, bill pattern and bill colour suggest that this well-faded bird is a second-winter. (c) Richard Brown

Chris and Giselle processing the Turnstones. We caught both adults and first-winters so we could get our eye in for the retained coverts and higher levels of wear that separate the juvenile birds. The cosmopolitan diet of the Turnstone means that we could have used almost anything to bring them to the trapping site, including recorded foodstuffs such as coconut, human corpse and vomit, but we didn't drink quite that much wine. (c) Richard Brown

Sunday, January 1, 2012

And so the yearlist 2012 commenced with a trip out to Hartlepool. Despite the heavy rain we picked up the Ring-necked Duck as we passed Cowpen Bewley. We then had a surprise as we headed along the coast when we picked up a Marsh Harrier on the deck, the latest ever Cleveland record! We then had a cracking time on the Headland in the company of the legend Chris Brown. Black-throated Diver, stacks of Red-throated Divers, Red-necked Grebe, Glaucous GullMediterranean Gull, Velvet Scoter and Peregrine were all good additions for the year. A melanistic House Sparrow and the leucistic Knot were also interesting to see. A total of 63 species and no Wren or Song Thrush or Collared Dove or Jackdaw.

The returning drake Ring-necked Duck back for its third winter. One of four drake Ring-necks seen today in the UK. (c) Richard Brown

One of the two Glaucous Gulls visiting the fish quay. There are currently 15 or so being reported each day in Britain. (c) Richard Brown

Returning from the heavy rain at Cowpen Bewley and into a warm car left the camera lens a bit steamy. Sadly that's when we picked up the Marsh Harrier so the photos are a bit rubbish. The cream-crown soon departed and headed out across the tip. Up until this year the latest Cleveland record was 3 December 2010 and the earliest 5 March 2007 and what was probably this bird was last seen on 27 December. (c) Richard Brown