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Monday, 28 April 2014

Deepest Lincolnshire

I was out with Pete Watson today and it was down into the depths of Lincolnshire, it was as much a Butterfly trip as a Bird one although it proved we were probably still a bit too early, Twyford Woods, about as far South in Lincolnshire as you can get, was first up hoping to catch up with Grizzled Skipper, it wasn’t the best of mornings but the sun did eventually get out, unfortunately even though we managed to find plenty of their food plant, Wild Strawberry, the Butterflies didn’t put in an appearance, a good selection of Warblers were present including my first Garden Warblers of the year.  Late morning we headed back to Lincoln calling in at Whisby Nature Park on the outskirts and although it was quite busy by that time we didn’t have any problem getting on the Nightingales, at least three were singing around Coot Lake with one showing quite well although not as photogenic as last year. Next up was Chambers Farm Wood for another Butterfly attempt, Marsh Fritillary this time but judging by the flowerless state of the Meadow we were way too early for this one, a bit disappointing really considering how early some things have been this year. A couple of Dotterel had been reported again from Tetney Lock village this morning so we thought we’d try for them next, had a quick look at Covenham Res on the way but apart from masses of Swallows and a few Common Terns it was fairly quiet, a Yellow Wag showed well on the wall, nearer the coast it became quite murky and despite a good search there was no sign of the Dotterels this afternoon. We paid a quick visit to Blacktoft on the way home on the off-chance the Montagu’s Harrier from yesterday and this morning may still be around, it wasn’t just two or three Marsh Harriers floating around.
Wild Strawberry


Greater Stitchwort

plenty of Green Veined White and Orange Tips but no
Grizzled Skippers

interesting Arachnid

just couldn't get a clear shot of him

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wheldrake Warblings

I was out after work today and as there had been no news on any Terns or anything at Hes East I thought I’d check out Wheldrake Ings, haven't been down there for a while, it was relatively quiet although there were plenty of Warblers about including my first Reed, Sedge and Whitethroats of the year, not many Hirundines though surprisingly. A lone Whooper Swan on Swantail Ings was probably a sick or injured bird and a Greenshank and Redshank graced the scrape there with two Whimbrels dropping in briefly late afternoon before moving into the field behind the Hide, the only other thing of note was a distant Buzzard over the woods.
Willow Warbler, the only one that posed

a few Butterflies were about including this Green Veined White

departing Whimbrels

Monday, 21 April 2014

A tale of two Pipits or what a load of Bull

Easter weekend with two days birding planned and the winds looking favourable, Friday I headed off to Flamborough with Mark and Paz as the Tawny Pipit from last weekend was still present and had been showing well all Thursday plus a whole host of common migrants had been seen as well, well as the saying goes what a difference a day makes, there was no sign of the Pipit this morning despite the field being scrutinized by a good turn around of birders nor was much else seen, there must have been a clear out overnight, a few Sand Martins over Thornwick Pools were about the best of it. With nothing reported from anywhere else on the East Coast by mid-afternoon we decided to cut our losses and head inland to North Cave Wetlands, Dryham Ings had several pairs of Little Ringed Plovers, nesting Avocets and a White Wagtail amongst the many Pied then as we were searching the hedges for Warblers news came over that the Tawny Pipit had been seen again, it was a dilemma but we knew if we didn’t go and it turned out that it showed well all evening we would kick ourselves so we returned to Flamborough, a Buzzard was seen near Driffield on the way, sometimes its better to be ignorant of news, we arrived on sight, a handful of birders already present had not seen the bird and we learned the claim had come from brief flight views halfway up the field, not the best of days.
we flushed a buck Roe Deer down Old Fall

LRP at North Cave

Out with Mark again today and we were joined by Pete Watson this morning, we had decided on Spurn chasing after another Pipit, this time a possible Blyth’s in a field near the Gas Terminals at Easington, the bird had been reported early morning but when we arrived we learnt an organized flush had failed to find it again, another flush was planned for a bit later, we had a wander around the Easington area which was fairly quiet returning to the field for the next flush but again it failed to locate the bird. We spent the rest of the day birding the Spurn area, there was a handful of common migrants about including a small flock of Arctic Terns over Sammy’s Point, we managed to get a few year ticks but it was generally pretty quiet and by late afternoon we were on our way, we just got through Patrington when the Pipit was reported again so we turned around and went back, a bit deja vu this, and again as on Friday it turned out to be a load of bullshit, some birders had got there within 5 mins of the news going out and found no bird no birders nothing, so a weekend of full of Eastern promise turned out quite disappointing in the end, still you can’t win em all as they say.

Willow Warbler playing hide and seek

Friday, 18 April 2014

Scottish Weekend

A long weekend in Scotland had been planned and early last Friday morning me, Mark, Paz and Darren our mate from Leeds set off for Speyside, as last year the first port of call was Musselburgh where a drake Surf Scoter was again showing from there, a small group of Barnacle Geese at the river mouth probably had better credentials than others seen this winter and were soon on their way, we started scanning the Bay and the Surf Scoter was soon located amongst the many Velvet and Common out in the bay, there were also quite a few Long Tailed Ducks plus a couple of Slavonian and a Red Necked Grebe as well, a few waders were around again including several Grey Plovers. We carried on our way and at Perth we took the route up the Eastern side of the Cairngorms up to the Ski centre at Glen Shee, there was a touch of rain in the air but at least it was clear this time although finding the Ptarmigan proved harder than we thought, several scans eventually found two pairs and there were also several Wheatear and a male Ring Ouzel just down the road, several Mountain Hares were still looking quite white. It was then up to the North coast just East of Inverness to visit Loch Flemington where the American Coot that turned up at the beginning of the year was incredibly still present, good views were had of this bird and also a few Sand Martins and my first Swallows of the year were flying around. We carried on to Burghead hoping for King Eider and White Billed Diver although there had been no news on them for several days, an adult Iceland Gull in a field on the way was a nice bonus but the sea off Burghead was fairly quiet although we managed to pick out a couple of Black Throated Divers and see our first Sandwich Terns of the year. With the day done we headed for Dulnain Bridge where we had a B&B booked and encountered the final birds of the day when we came across several hundred Pink Footed Geese in some fields, there had also been quite a few Buzzards, Hooded Crows and Ravens seen throughout the day as we travelled between sites.
Red Deer keeping an eye on us at Glen Shee


a couple of Black Throated Divers
We were up before breakfast and out to Loch Garten for the Capercaillie watch, we hadn’t managed to get any info about any rogue birds so we again had to rely on this site and this morning it was a total no show, the pair of Ospreys were around the nest though, the female having just laid the first egg the night before, we left enough time to get round to Tulloch Moor and at least had three Black Grouse strutting their stuff albeit distantly to justify the early start. After breakfast we spent the morning looking around some forest sites around the Boat of Garten and Abernethy, highlights were at least three Crested Tits from the track out to Loch Malachie, Red Squirrels in several places and a Crossbill that flew over but from its call we deemed it to be just common. In the afternoon we headed to the Findhorn Valley, the weather forecast had stated severe gales over high ground, they weren’t wrong it was incredibly windy with one or two heavy squalls passing through, it wasn’t looking good at first with only a couple of Kestrels braving the elements but a couple of birders returning to their car told us they’d had a couple of Golden Eagles further down the valley, we had only ever scoped from the last car park in the past but we decided the best chance would be to walk out to this area further along the valley, it was a mile and a half or more trudge, heads down against the wind to the area where a couple of valleys branched off either side, another birder already there informed us two Eagles had flown across the valley as we were walking up, with heads down most of the time we’d missed them however after 15 -20 mins one appeared over the ridge across the valley being mobbed by a couple of specks (Kestrels) and slowly drifted along the ridge out to the head of the valley, also one or two Buzzards and Ravens a couple of Wheatears and masses of Red Deer on the hillside up there with Dipper and a few Mountain Goats on the way back. We headed back to Grantown via Lochindorb but it was still extremely windy and apart from a pair of Red Grouse showing well at the roadside there was nothing of note, we ended the day with an evening walk around Grantown Forest hoping to maybe come across a Capercaillie but no chance just a couple of Pheasants being the nearest we got to it.
Red Squirrel on the feeders at Loch Garten

Crestie proclaiming his territory

Loch Garten

the magnificent Findhorn Valley

a few Common Gulls around

Golden Eagle being mobbed by a Kestrel

also one or two Buzzards

couldn't find the pot of gold

Mountain Goat

Red Grouse at Lochindorb

Up before breakfast again and back out to Loch Garten for another try for the Capercaillie, they had got one in the camera up a tree as we arrived but it flew, they lost it and neither it nor any other was seen thereafter. After breakfast we had been planning to head over to Gruinard Bay on the North-west coast but there was a forecast for heavy rain today, we decided to chance it anyway. It was a fairly bright start and as we passed beyond Inverness several Red Kites and Buzzards were floating around but as we went further West the weather closed in, we made a brief stop at Loch Droma where Darren has seen Black Throated Diver in past years but it was fairly quiet today so we were soon on our way. As we got to Gruinard Bay the rain eased off and we spent the best part of the day travelling around the Bay stopping at several viewpoints, there were a lot Great Northern Divers out there in various stages of moult from winter plumaged birds right through to full summer, also a pair of Velvet Scoter, a Black Throated Diver and a few Black Guillemots out in the Bay and several Hooded Crows and Ravens blogging, fantastic scenery, late afternoon we took a steady drive back and caught back up with the rain as it headed East so we opted for an early finish.  
Summer plumaged Great Northern

Anthrax Island, still uninhabitable

Last day of the Scottish weekend and we were up before breakfast and out to Loch Garten yet again hoping it would be third time lucky with the Capercaillie, as we arrived they had a bird on camera lekking out in the open but it was in an area where it couldn’t be seen from the hides, unfortunately it never moved from that area so although we got some good views of it on the monitor for the first time we failed to see this species in the flesh. We went back for our last breakfast at the digs and checked out, then as it wasn’t going to be a mad dash back to Yorkshire for a certain Martin we thought we’d spend the last morning up Cairngorm. We called in at Avie Lochan on the way and were pleased to find a pair of Slavonian Grebes were back on and showing well, up Cairngorm we were hoping to get more views of Ptarmigan but despite near freezing temperatures and touch of snow in the air they had moved back higher up  and proved rather elusive, plenty of Red Grouse around though, next stop home! All in all it had been another excellent weekend trip in good company, I saw around 95 species over the weekend, 11 of them year ticks and it was just my second sighting of American Coot in this country.

Red Grouse up Cairngorm

Mountain scenery

Paz on the left, searching for Ptarmigan

view to Loch Morlich