10/09/2021 RSPB Bempton Cliffs, Bridlington

Green Warbler: This year just keeps on giving! 

Another bird makes it onto my list taking me another step closer to 400. And with shetland booked in October I might just get there this year. 

Fingers crossed!
This was the first twitchable mainland green warbler, so to say that there was a lot of folk who were keen to see it would be an understatement. Green warbler records are typically confined to the western Isles of Scotland,  the Scilly Isles and Lundy Island. 
According to grapevine they day it was found there was a mass of birders who descended on the bird many of which never saw it, due to the confined viewing area and big crowd. 

 



Black-browed Albatross: Once I arrived the bird had found a more reliable foraging area in a more open part of the thicket. This are was much better as it allowed more people to view it from a respectable distance to the bird. 







The warbler gie me the run around for about an hour with only brief glimpses as it foraged in the dense vegetation and through the willows.  

Eventually it gave itself up, to the relief of the torrent of newcomers who were swelling crowd. 

The bird was favouring a small crab apple tree at the base of the willows so if you were patient enough the bird would show on and off here. 

A few pied flies and a handful of willow warblers were giving some folk false hope as I could here 'there it is' only to be mistaken by a willow warbler or a flycatching pied. 
Green warbler spends its summers in Turkey and Iran and moved across to Indian subcontinent for Winter so it's a long, long way from home. 

But most welcomed on to my list! 
I have also been hoping to go back to Bempton for another round with their resident albatross, and i wasn't disappointed. 

The black-browed albatross has been present on and off, but more regularly reliable since the end of June. 
It has been hanging off the gannet laidend cliffs and feeding out at sea before returning to roost amongst its noisy neighbours. 


Despite a torrent of photos on social media and constant updates regarding its whereabouts I'm still blown away this sensational bird. 

With its striking brow and huge black wings its brilliant to watch as it glides around the white cliffs. 
The albatross put on a brilliant performance coming close to the cliffs and circling below the small group of birders who had broken away from the green warbler.  
It was notable that many of the sea birds had now moved on post breeding, even the gannet numbers were reduced, both on the cliffs and on the sea. 
Thanks to Mark Thomas who caught and rung the it, not only did he find the bird  he als kind enough to release news, arrange access and keep the land onwe happy with a donation bucket. 

Top lad. 






Magnificent day with two mega awesome birds and some top quality company, too many folk to mention but nice to catch up with so many familiar faces. 

31/08/2021 Hornsea mere, East Yorkshire

Arctic Tern: Take a look at this stunner, lacking pigment within its feathers making it pure white this leucistic Arctic tern was a sight!  It stood out like a beacon even from the otherside of the mere.





The bird has taken up residence at Hornsea Mere for a few weeks now, joining the increasing numbers of little gull feeding on the newly emerging lake fly. 


When I arrived the bird was nowhere to be seen, not resting on the jetty or feeding over the water,, not a sign of it. 

Local bider Nick Lawman was also searching and scanning the water for the bird.  
Not before long I pointed it out as it was hawking close to the reeds on the far side of the mere, the bird also came over and rested on the jetty albeit for a very short time. 

Chatting to Nick we decided to rent a rowboat and take the opportunity to get a little closer to both  the tern and the little gulls. 

The boat rental can be done card or cash at the cost of £5 each and is manned by two of the nicest blokes. 



Little Gull: Hornsea Mere is famous for its little gull roots with thousands of birds attending at anyone time and many remaining throughout the day. There was still over 200 birds present while I was there mid morning.



Over the next few weeks, thousands of these small charismatic gulls make their way down the North Sea from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and the Baltic.
So we headed out on to the open water, I rowed out not in a particularly straight line, slow and steady we made it over to the side where we last saw the tern. 

Not long after we arrived we drifted into the shallows and had to use the ores to push ourselves back out onto the water.  
The tern reappeared and put on a magnificent display as it flew up and down the front of the reeds before whizzing right past our boat and across the mere out of sight. 
The little gulls were also busily feeding around our small boat. With a couple of smart looking juveniles and even a near full summer plumage adult sporting a near perfect back hood. 

They were plucking flies from the top of the surface of the water, hawking right in front of us. 





I didn't realise how difficult it would have been out on the boat, sure physically rowing the boat was difficult and tricky but that I did expect. But the wind was affecting the water and the boat was bobbing up and down which made it particularly difficult to hold the camera steady!
Nick rowed back, and in all fairness he did a much better job of it then I did. Faster, straighter and he didn't find it all that difficult to turn the boat. 
I have to say I really enjoyed this mini-adventure, OK the photography opportunities weren't great and it was much more difficult than either of us originally anticipated, but we did get closer to the tern and the gulls. 
Big thanks again to Nick whos rowing silks were just the ticket and allowed me to get some extra snaps of the gulls on the water. 
Arctic Tern: If you chose not rent a boat then it's worth waiting alongside the jetties as the gulls rest on here throughout the day and the tern can make an appearance here too. 

27/08/2021 Blacktoft Sands RSPB, East Yorkshire

White-tailed plover: A long awaited bird, living in the North West and knocking about with some Liverpool birders I have heard  to stories of one of these birds turning up at Seaforth.
This was before my twitching days and was a bird I've always longed to see, but typically the day the bird was found I was booked in top photograph a wedding, and on a Thursday! My only Thursday wedding this year. 


Anyway, the couple were lovely and the wedding was stunning at one stage I was even showing the bride and groom pictures  of the bird. 

So the following morning I decided not to wait on news and go for first light arriving at the reserve just before 6am. 

I was worried to when the reserve would open, officially it opens at 9am and there was a shocking lack of information despite folk asking about the opening times following the bird being found.
But when I arrived the warden was there opening up, also there was Chris Griffin who along with his rumbling belly kept me company as the bird put on an outstanding show right in front of Townend hide. 
I was blown away by hw great tis bird is, with is extremely long bright yellow legs, and its diminutive face packing away at the mud this is a really nice bird.   
Big thanks to the RSPB warden who arrived early to open the reserve and allow us all into the hide to view the bird. 


 

13/06/2021 Spike Island, Widess

Whooper Swan: These elegant and well travelled swans come to the UK in their thousands to spend the winter here; they arrive from Iceland in late autumn, returning north again in the spring. Their breeding range, extending from Iceland and northern Scandinavia in the west to the Pacific coast of Russia in the east. 



This individual has decided to stay put this summer and not return to its breeding range, but instead take up residence with the local mute swan at Spike island in Widnes!

  

Whooper's show obvious individual bill variations, their black and yellow patterns on the bill are almost like individual fingerprint in humans with each bird having a different pattern. The extent of the yellow and black on the bill can also tell you which population they belong to with the Icelandic population wintering in England having more black than has been found on the bills of the eastern Siberian population wintering in Japan. 
The bird seems right at home, totally habituated to the slobbering unleashed dogs that are allowed to run straight in the resting flock and making the most of the free food given to them by children and families who have come fo feed the ducks. 
Whooper swans have a distinctive upright posture in comparison with the its cousins the Bewick’s and mute swans, with a slight kink at the base of the neck and a relatively long neck to overall body length. 

The yellow bill really stood out among the orange bills of the resident mute swans. 




 

Let's hope that it eventually moves on and finds its own kind and takes on the mammoth journeys whooper swans regularly take up north.

11/08/2021 Taylor Park, St Helens

Mediterranean Gull: This is a cracking bird, one that really stands out next to the local black-headed gulls.








Not only is the bird much darker bird and slightly bigger with obvious white ringes to its scapulars compared with the black-headed gulls, but it was much more vocal and aggressive towards the other gulls.  
Either loafing on the lake or perched upon the jetty, the bird was eagerly waiting for scops of bread, seeds and pretty much any food that the families  bring to feed the ducks and geese. 
Taylor park is on the opposite side of Grange Park Golf Course east of Eccleston Mere and is a lovely place for a walk especially after being stuck in for a few days.  
Not much else to note really apart from the Med gull.

26/07/2021 Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk

Western Sandpiper: With less than a dozen British records this bird was definitely on my hit list. However,  when news broke on over the weekend I was stuck with baby duties. I'm not complaining she's the best baby ever but I will admit I was I'm a bit of a grump over the weekend! 
The bird appeared to show well all day on Saturday and became elusive on Sunday with only two sighting, one from the hide. 

This combined with the fact that Snettisham is currently home to thousands upon thousands of dunlin, knott and many other species, the phrase a needle in a haystack sprung to mind.
The alarm went off at 2:45am and I arrived at 6:30am when I walked up on the shingle bank overlooking the great expanse of mudflats, mile upon miles of prime feeding habitats for a wide range of wading birds! 

Absolutely brilliant. 
Within an hour the tide covered much of the exposed mudflats, the restaurant was closed and the birds whizzed over our heads and on the the pools to roost.  So I ambled down to the hide hoping it could be picked out amongst the crows of dulin that had settled here to roost., but not before long a bloke spoke up saying the bird had just been reported on Birdguides, a hurried scrum ensured. 
The bird amazingly was with about 5o dunlin that had chosen to roost just off the main footpath on the shoreline of the shingle bank. 

It showed briefly before entering the dense mass of bird, lost to view. From then on it was a nervous wait. 
but once the tide began to go out, exposing the mud the birds woke up and scampered out to feed. 

The bird showed exceptionally well. 
I remember missing the infamous Hoylake bird, unable to go as I was working away in London at the time carrying out black redstart surveys. 

So I'm thrilled to grip this one back.