Shetland 1-10th October 2019

I was fortunate enough to get some time off from work during the peak migration season and was looking forward to another visit to Shetland with friends to ‘bird’ all day, every day. Paul M kindly picked us up (Nige W, Rich H and myself) and then drove every mile to Aberdeen, a stay near to the airport gave us time for a beer and burger before bed and we flew to Sumburgh the next day. We departed and arrived with no bother, it was a tad chillier than we were used to so far this autumn. We headed to Grutness beach to have a look at the confiding Semi-palmated Sandpiper and other waders, Jeremy S who was already on Shetland arrived by bus and joined us for the trip.

We were to be based on the most Northerly island of Unst for seven days, our intention was to have at least a day on Fetlar but otherwise not leave Unst until we returned to mainland Shetland for the last two nights. Despite various scarce birds being present on mainland Shetland we stuck to this plan. Notes and images follow.

M.J.McGill

Brambling, female, Tresta, Fetlar MJMcGill
Yellow-browed Warbler, Tresta, Fetlar MJMcGill
Short-toed Lark, Tresta, Fetlar
Looking through a metal seven bar gate!
Dusky Warbler, Haroldswick, Unst
Twite, Norwick, Unst, Shetland MJMcGill
Goldcrest, Sumburgh Quarry.
We watched this bedraggled migrant desperately looking for food after crossing the sea, it managed to find a harvestman type spider which was a little too big for it to handle, after sorting the legs out it swallowed it whole and settled down to preen seemingly oblivious to our presence.
Juvenile Waxwing, Camb, Yell
We searched for this bird and was struggling to find it when JS spotted at the base of a bonfire pile, it was feeding on the dried berries of a cut Rowan.
Red-breasted Flycatcher, Mainland Shetland
Our second of the week.

Highlights of this trip were as follows..

Flocks of Pink-footed Geese as we headed into Cumbria and as we travelled through Scotland to Aberdeen. On Shetland our highlights were…

1 October

Semi-palmated Sandpiper at Grutness, Mainland, Red-breasted Flycatcher at West Yell, Yell Whinchat, 2 Brambling and Mealy Redpoll at Norwick, Unst.

2 October

Wheatear, Redwing, Merlin and Willow Warbler at Haroldswick.
2 Lesser Whitethroat, Fieldfare, 3 Brambling, 2 Tree Sparrow, 3 Mealy Redpoll, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siskin, 5 Redwing, Redstart and Blackcap at Norwick.
12 Redwing, Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Swallow, Pied Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Merlin at Baltasound.

3 October

Wheatear, Whinchat and Merlin. Lapland Bunting, 4 Snow Bunting and Purple Sandpiper at Lamba Ness.
Dusky Warbler and Song Thrush at Haroldswick.
Willow Warbler, Whinchat and Swallow at Westing.
Scaup, 2 Goldeneye, Blackcap and Tree Pipit at Uyeasound.
Song Thrush, Slavonian Grebe and Knot at Baltasound.
2 Song Thrush and 2 Fieldfare at Burrafirth. 13 Mealy Redpoll at Norwick.

4 October

Glaucous Gull and 2 Fieldfare at Burrafirth.
Jack Snipe, 3 Mealy Redpoll, 2 Fieldfare and Redwing at Northdale.
3 Redwing, Yellow-browed Warbler and 10+ Mealy Redpoll at Baliasta.
4 Blackcap, 4 Yellow-browed Warbler, 4 Robin, 6 Goldcrest, 15 Brambling, 2 Chiffchaff, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, 2 Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat and Redstart at Baltasound.

5 October

Otter at Baltasound. 25+ Long-tailed Duck, 5 Black Guillemot, and 3 Otter at Belmont.
Fetlar- 7 Whooper Swan, Brambling, 2 Yellow-browed Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, 15 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, Short-toed Lark.
Lamba Ness, Unst- Barred Warbler and 6 Snow Bunting.

6 October

Wheatear, 4 Mealy Redpoll, c20 Redwing at Burrafirth.
2 Lapland Bunting, 10 Snow Bunting and 12 Mealy Redpoll at Lamba Ness.
2 Wheatear, 2 Mealy Redpoll, Blackcap, Redstart and Whinchat at Norwick.
Wheatear, Tree Pipit, Brambling, Chiffchaff and Blackcap at Sandwick.

Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Whitethroat and Merlin at Muness.
2 Yellow-browed Warbler, Merlin, Siberian Chiffchaff, Brambling and 10 Redwing at Baltasound.

8 October

3 Snow Bunting, 20 Mealy Redpoll, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Yellow-browed Warbler, Siskin, Robin, c20 Redwing at Burrafirth.
Ring Ouzel and Stejneger’s Stonechat at Westing.

Willow Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat at Uyeasound.
Waxwing and Linnet at Camb, Yell.
Yellow-browed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Blackcap at Burn of Valayre, Brae.
Waxwing at Ollaberry.

9 October

Reed Bunting at Brake.
Siberian Chiffchaff, 2 Mealy Redpoll, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Grey Wagtail at Quendale.
Lapland Bunting at Sumburgh.
Siberian Chiffchaff, Jack Snipe and Yellow-browed Warbler at Swinster Burn, Hoswick.
Siskin at Sandwick.

Alicante, Murcia and E. Andalucia (Almeria province) 17-20 December 2018

17 December 2018

This wasn’t an Anser trip although the notes and images may be of interest to readers who may plan to visit the area or would like to see some of what we recorded.

I had planned and arranged a budget trip to this part of Spain for our small party of four (myself, Joe, Neil and Bob) and had planned to visit some sites that I was familiar with from birding visits in the early 1990s and to call in on a few new ones. We flew from Bristol to Alicante (easyjet) with no issues and picked up the hire car (Sixt), we were well on the road by mid afternoon. We headed straight to El Hondo (or El Fondo) wetland reserve and visited some of the hides, it was warm, the winter sun was very welcome.

Booted Eagle (pale phase)

Booted Eagle, El Hondo, Elche, MJMcGill (5)_edited-1

Birds/wildlife noted included a pale phase Booted Eagle, Southern Grey Shrikes, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti’s Warbler, Bluethroats, Cattle Egrets, Marsh Harriers, Greater Flamingo, Coot, plenty of Black-necked Grebes, Crag Martins, Sardinian Warbler,Chiffchaffs, Penduline Tit (heard) and representing odonata were Red-veined Darters (pictured) and a larger species of Hawker dragonfly.

Red-veined Darter, El Hondo, MJMcGill (3)_edited-1

Our next stop was at a service area before heading into the Sierra Aracena mountains in Murcia and then on to our ‘base’ for the next two nights in Eastern Andalucia (Cabo de Gata) in Almeria province.

The Aracena scenery was impressive but it was largely silent and still with few birds about, the high peak looked to have a very distant flock of Red-billed Chough wheeling around but they were largely out of view. One species of interest must now be locally extinct, the habitat that was once suitable for Dupont’s Larks is no more, either developed or fragmented by plastic greenhouses. A sunset drive saw us arrive hungry and ready for a drink and meal at the Hotel Blanc Brisa. Ice cold glasses of Turia on draught was our preferred beer if you ever call in, the vegetable paella dish was also agreeable.

18 December 2018

Our first stop of the day was right on the doorstep of Cabo de Gata, only minutes away was the beach track that led to Rambla Morales, a brackish lagoon where the virtually dried up river mouth is cut off by a sandbar. It was dawn, as it warmed in the bright sun, the birds began to wake. Southern Grey Shrikes, bright Stonechats, a flock of Lesser Short-toed Larks and Trumpeter Finches, Crested Larks and a flock of c60 Golden Plover were feeding in the dunes.

White-headed Duck, Rambla Morales, MJM (1)_edited-1

At the pool a Water Pipit showed well, 4+ Black-necked Grebes, lots of Chiffchaff, Crag Martins, Cetti’s Warbler, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal,  Pochard and one of my favourites-5+ White-headed Ducks (see above) were on the pool. Other notables were Bluethroat and Penduline Tits, the latter species calling regularly.

Bluethroat

Bluethroat, Rambla Morales, MJM (2)_edited-1

Later that morning we visited the nearby Las Almonaderas ‘desert’ reserve. Crested Larks, Black Redstarts, Stonechat, Southern Grey Shrike, a brief eagle species and a few Chiffchaff were present. Nearby a Little Owl watched and sunbathed from some boulders, it’s home now surrounded by new plastic greenhouses, they are continually developing a sea of plastic to grow fruit and vegetables for our consumption.

Little Owl

Little Owl, Las Amolederas (2)_edited-1

We stopped for a coffee and very sweet cake and made a plan to visit the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains hoping the roads were clear of snow. On the way we took in the spectacular ‘badland’ scenery as well as a stupendous castle (La Calahorra) with snow capped mountain backdrop. We drove the winding roads to the Puerto de la Ragua with no snow to worry about. Stopping on the roadside to scan the hawthorns we logged c50 very nervous Ring Ouzels and a few Song Thrushes. Up at the ski station we searched the ski runs with dog rose bushes and forest, c25 Red Crossbill, 10+ Siskin and a flock of Goldfinches were vocal, a couple of Citril Finch were seen. Rock Buntings and Crested Tits showed very well, another Ring Ouzel with Blackbirds kept a low profile. The biggest surprise at 2000m in December was a Queen of Spain Fritillary butterfly, it was 14c and sunny. It was a great place to be but we decided to head back down with just enough time to visit a quiet and remote mountain village in the Tabernas area at dusk.

Queen of Spain Fritillary, Crested Tit and Red Crossbill- Puerto de la Ragua, Sierra Nevada

Crested Tit, Puerto de la Ragua, Sierra Nevada (1)_edited-1
Fritillary, Puerto de la Ragua, MJM (4)_edited-1
Red Crossbill, Puerto de la Ragua (4)_edited-1

19 December 2018

First port of call were the adjacent salt pans at Cabo de Gata where more Spotless Starling, Greater Flamingo, Slender-billed Gulls, Spoonbills, Shelduck, Greenshank and Redshank, Audouin’s Gulls, Ringed Plover, Little Stint and Dunlin were noted. A Dartford Warbler and Southern Grey Shrike was near the western public hide.

At the Cabo de Gata lighthouse we noted a Black Wheatear, Rock Bunting, Thekla Larks, Red-legged Partridge and Black Redstarts were all seen. Heading inland we tried our luck at more mountain villages with little to report other than plastic greenhouses. The area had changed considerably since the early 1990s, back then it was the first time I had seen them on such a scale around Almeria, the expansion since then is rather hard to take in, the birds and ‘Euro desert’ habitat has largely disappeared.

We got back the road and decided it was best to go coastal, it had been productive for us so far, plans were made at a service area to try our luck at Mar Menor and more salinas. A fine end to the day and smashing sunset at La Charcas mud baths with Slender-billed Gulls, Black-necked Grebes, Flamingos, Yellow-legged Gulls and a few waders including Turnstone, Sanderling and Common Sandpiper. At dusk we made our way to the hotel in Santa Pola, after a wash an brush up we met in the bar for a couple of drinks and then enjoyed another good meal.

Slender-billed Gull, Sanderling and Little Egret-Las Charcas mudbaths, Mar Menor

Slender-billed Gull, Las Charcas mudbaths, salinas, Mar Menor, MJMcGill (19)_edited-1
Sanderling, Playa de la Mata, Mar Menor, MJMcGill (4)_edited-1
Little Egret, Mar Menor, MJMcGill (2)_edited-1

Black-necked Grebe-Las Charcas

Black-necked Grebe, Las Charcas, Salinas, Mar Menor, MJMcGill (8)_edited-1
Black-necked Grebe, Las Charcas, Salinas, Mar Menor, MJMcGill (2)_edited-1

20 December 2018

After a very good pre-dawn breakfast we discovered the hotel offered a decent vantage point over the north end of the Santa Pola salinas so I scanned through the wildfowl. Outside and only minutes down the road we made a few stops in the lay-bys and from an observation tower seeing more Slender-billed Gulls, Spoonbills, Flamingo, Dunlin, Little Stints, Kentish Plover (included a breeding plumaged male), Osprey, Audouin’s and Yellow-legged Gulls, Shelduck, Marsh Harriers, singing Southern Grey Shrike and the usual Cormorants and Little and Great White Egrets.

We had to leave to catch out flight home and be at the airport for 10:00am so this concluded our opportunistic birding break, the loss of habitats in key areas of Almeria and Murcia was worrying, on positive note the birds we did see were welcome, with continued protection the wetlands and salinas offer extremely important habitat for 1000s of birds. The Santa Pola/El Hondo complex was of particular interest but for me the time spent at Rambla Morales and Sierra Nevada offered us some very memorable birding time.

M.J.McGill

Norfolk 27-28 November 2018

27 November 2018

A one night visit was hastily arranged to make the most of the late autumn birding in North Norfolk. We left Whitminster at 0530 to get a reasonable day’s birding in. The foggy conditions didn’t help at our first stop in Cambridgeshire, it did clear enough to allow us to look for Rough-legged Buzzards, at least two were wintering at Holme Fen NNR, a site that we’ve seen them on previous Anser trips. A few Buzzards and Red Kites were noted in the murk, the latter species giving great views in the trees around one farm. A Peregrine whizzed through buzzing a Lapwing on the way. Sparrowhawk and numerous Kestrels proved that despite the poor weather, raptors had to get on with it.

We travelled onward to Norfolk stopping near Guyhirn to enjoy a flock of over 300 Whooper Swans, we arrived at Wells Woods for our next birding walk. Heading to the Dell we searched through mobile tit flocks which revealed many Goldcrests and a couple of Treecreepers, we eventually located the Pallas’s Warbler that had been in the area on previous days. As had been noted by other observers this ‘sprite’ didn’t stay in one place for long, we all had great views of the little stunner. We also notes three Redpoll but they flew off without giving us better views. A couple of Little Grebe were on the pond.

Pallas’s Warbler at Wells Woods

Palaas's Warbler, Wells Woods, 001, MJMcGill Pallas's Warbler, Wells Woods, MJM

 

A Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock was near the football pitch at Wells next the Sea. We headed for a couple of viewpoints over Holkham Freshmarsh where a small flock of Barnacle Geese, a large party of Egyptian Geese, 4+ Marsh Harrier, 2 Buzzards and 2 Great White Egrets were noted. Moving to Land Anne’s Drive we scanned the marshes seeing many more Marsh Harriers and a pale Buzzard, from the hide we had closer views of Wigeon flocks and Great White Egret. With the light failing we tried our luck looking out from Wells next the Sea, a few waders were in the harbour but it became dark and the drizzle began to fall, the signal to end our birding for the day. Arrived in good time to settle in to our hotel at Hunstanton with time to relax with a drink and have a decent meal.

28 November 2018

A good breakfast was enjoyed by all followed by our first stop, a scan from Hunstanton Cliffs. Red-throated Divers, Great Crested Grebes, Guillemots, Red-breasted Mergansers and Fulmars were all scoped from the shelter. Our second stop was at Thornham Harbour, we immediately located a flock of finches that contained at least 17 Twite. Goldfinch and Linnets shared the same saltmarsh grass seeds.

Plenty of birds were to be seen, Brent Geese, a variety of waders, wildfowl and gulls were on the beach and saltmarsh with a number of Marsh Harriers soaring over. Scanning the distant dunes I could see a perched buzzard sp that took flight and began hovering, it showed all the features of a Rough-legged but was lazily making it’s way east, we relocated to Titchwell RSPB. Without lingering we walked out toward the beach when the juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard rose up in front of us and floated across Volunteer Marsh it was great to see it so well.

Rough-legged Buzzard, Titchwell.

Rough-legged Buzzard, Titchwell, MJMcGill

 

On to the beach where we set up in a sheltered spot behind the dunes and began scanning the sea and beach. Waders included flocks of Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover and Turnstone. A smart drake Eider was on the beach before it wandered back into the sea. A very productive hour followed, one of those magic birding moments, a range of species that would attract a lot of interest in Gloucestershire. Totals included 12 Long-tailed Duck (many cracking males were in display), 3 Great Northern Diver, 3 Black-throated Diver, 20+ Red-throated Diver, 3+ Slavonian Grebe, 2 Red-necked Grebe, 25+ Red-breasted Merganser, 24+ Great Crested Grebe, 6+ Guillemot, 1 Razorbill, 3 Goldeneye, a flock of distant Common Scoter and a few Gannets. The scope viewing was really good.

As a parting shot I picked up a dot on the horizon that was worth tracking, it came into id range and proved to be a Woodcock arriving low over the waves from the continent/Scandinavia. The tired bird made it to the dunes, an awesome migration feat.

On the return walk we had good perched views of the Rough-legged Buzzard again, this time being mobbed by Carrion Crows. It was busy with birds on the freshwater scrape and a large of Pink-footed Geese did the decent thing and flew over calling, more were to be seen on the fields with Dark-bellied Brents.

We headed back to the Holkham Freshmarsh again and made a brief scan over the marshes. East of the road single ‘winged’ Pink-footed and Brent Geese suggested that poor shooting and illegal hunting is still a threat. In the same vein, confiding released Red-legged Partridges couldn’t qualify as any form of ‘sport’ unless shooting fish in a barrel is your idea of a fun day out, the latter didn’t make it onto bird of the day nominations. The usual walk out to Holkham Gap and the bay ensued. A flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese grazed in the saltmarsh, one stood out, showing characteristics of a Black Brant (or Pacific Brent Goose).

We continued to the roped off area of  saltmarsh, I have to say that this is a great move, it gives these birds an undisturbed feeding area. A flock of 32 Snow Buntings greeted us as they skipped across the sandy beach/saltmarsh area. A feeding party of 13 Shore Lark also showed well. On the beach we enjoyed more sea-duck and divers,  about 30 mostly immature Eiders were present and a very distant flock of 300 Common Scoter.

A short stop at Morston Quay and then onto Cley Marshes NNT visitor centre for hot food and drink and a look over the marshes. We also visited the beach car park where more Common Scoters, Dark-bellied Brent Geese and Gannet were scoped. Out last stop of the day was at Sheringham, plenty of roosting gulls on show but no King Eider, it hadn’t been seen for a week but it was worth a try. This concluded the trip so we made the 4.5 hour drive back home. Although it was a short sweet visit, it was brilliant for birds

Martin

Shetland 28 September to 5 October 2018

It’s been some time since an Anser party visited the Shetland Isles, although this wasn’t a trip related to Anser  I thought I would write some notes and share images. The party of four did include Paul Marshall PEM (who has led an Anser Shetland trip),  Jeremy Squire JJS (who visits the islands 2-3 times annually) and and a veteran of the Northern Isles Nige Warren NJW. I’ve birded many out the way places with these three lads,  I was very much looking forward to autumn birding with this laid back trio and see what we could find.

We flew Bristol to Aberdeen then on to Sumburgh Shetland. After picking up the hire car our first stop was Sumburgh Head. A few minutes later we were watching three  Orca! (Killer Whales). An awesome start to the trip and a hard act to follow.

Orca

Orca (Killer Whale), Sumburgh, Shetland, MJM (6)_edited-1

After the excitement of the whales we opted to walk up to the lighthouse where a party of 7 Barnacle Geese passed by attempting to head south, it was very gusty, they aborted. Our first Merlin of the trip also put in an appearance.

Barnacle Geese, Sumburgh Head, Shetland, MJM (2)_edited-1

28 September

Despite the continuing high winds and rainfall we birded a number of places on the West Mainland. Our first Barred Warbler find of the trip made an appearance  in a plantation at Cutts but refused to allow any opportunities to photograph it. We noted a number of species including Twite (seen daily) and Redpoll.

29 September

The second Barred Warbler of the trip appeared whilst we were watching a Melodious Warbler at Lunna. The  larger warbler flew in after a downpour and passed over our heads to join the MW in a row of sycamores for a time. The MW was rather mobile in the short time we were present and went missing after the rain so no images we obtained. A Wheatear and flock of Rock Doves (seen daily) were sheltering from the winds.

Barred Warbler #2 at Lunna

Barred Warbler, Lunna, Shetland, MJM (2)_edited-1 Barred Warbler, Lunna, Shetland, MJM (6)_edited-1

1 October

We plumped for a trip to the Northern island of Unst via Yell and were soon watching an adult American Golden Plover that had been about. At Norwick we checked the beach where a handsome Long-tailed Duck stole the show. Guillemots and the ever present Gannets provided entertainment, the latter not at all phased by the heavy seas. Our third Barred Warbler of the trip hopped about in full view at the nearby cottages.

Barred Warbler #3

Barred Warbler, Norwick, Unst (10)_edited-1 Barred Warbler, Norwick, Unst (7)_edited-1 Barred Warbler, Norwick, Unst (6)_edited-1

We recorded a number of species while birding but the main highlight of the day was a  River Warbler found by other birders.

Whooper Swan, Uyeasound.

Whooper Swan, Uyeadsound, Unst (5)_edited-1

2 October

We headed down to South Mainland to bird a few spots and catch up with some scarce reported birds, single Common Rosefinch at one site followed by two more at the extremely gusty beach side location of Boddam was followed by the Lapland Bunting at Grutness, it showed well but the two nearby Snow Buntings remained flighty. In one of the nearby Sumburgh quarries we spent a bit of time having a gander at a Marsh Warbler that had been found.

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting, Grutness, Shetland, MJM (2)_edited-1 Lapland Bunting, Grutness, Shetland, MJM (5)_edited-1 Lapland Bunting, Grutness, Shetland, MJM (7)_edited-1

 

3 October

Back on Unst we had a great day in the field. Splitting up in Baltasound I located another Barred Warbler in the garden of a derelict cottage. Whilst watching this bird a Yellow-browed Warbler dropped out of the sky and began calling, Paul had another at Haligarth. We also noted a Willow Warbler. Moving on we found a Common Rosefinch juvenile at Saxaford as well as another passerine that gave us the slip.

Moving down to check gardens at Norwick we located the Barred Warbler again. (below).

Barred Warbler, Norwick, Unst, MJM (1)_edited-1 Barred Warbler, Norwick, Unst, MJM (4)_edited-1

Barred Warbler #4

This one showed well during a sunny rain shower, nice to have the two scarce warblers at the same time.

Barred Warbler, Baltasound, Unst, MJM (4)_edited-1

Yellow-browed Warbler at Baltasound, one of five we saw on this day.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Baltasound, MJM

News of a Pechora Pipit at Haroldswick came through so we headed for Laxa and put in a shift, nothing of particular note other than Blackcaps and a Ring Ouzel (JJS). We headed back to Saxaford where a Lesser Whitethroat and low fly over and calling Citrine Wagtail soon had us following after it back to Norwick. Whilst searching for it I put up both Common and Jack Snipe, JJS located the wagtail in the marsh and manged a few pics. We spent 30 minutes abut the pool in Haroldswick  for the Pechora but there was no sign. On the way back we stopped at Uyseasound and PEM spotted a Yellow-browed Warbler in one of the gardens. On Yell a brief stop at Collieson gave us another Yellow-browed and Willow Warbler were seen.

Our third Otter of the day showed at the ferry terminal.

4 October

We began the day by birding a local voe and then headed down south after news of a Lanceolated Warbler at Quendale Mill emerged, we logged a soggy Chiffchaff and a Common Whitethroat but not much else.  The nearby bay was of interest, two Great northern Divers and a few Purple Sandpipers being the highlight.

In the afternoon oOur surprise bird find of the day came in the form of an adult Pied-billed Grebe on Loch of Spiggie!

5 October

Last day birding down south, we tried our luck at Quendale again but had little to report other than enjoying the local birds.

Martin

 

 

Copenhagen weekend 1-3 June 2018.

Kalvebod Faelled and looking across to the outskirts of Copenhagen

Hopefully developments won’t encroach this fantastic place.

Amager Kalvebod, Copenhagen

 

 

Coepnhagen development, Kalvebod

Red-necked Grebe- probably the star bird on this ‘city’ break.

Red-necked Grebe, Kalvebod Faelled, Copenhagem, MJMcGill (35)_edited-1

This wasn’t an Anser trip but thought I would share the following notes that may be of interest.

Birthday gifts are always nice, my equally travel loving wife had set up a budget weekend to treat me to a new destination. Denmark was the only Scandinvian country I hadn’t visited and whilst a few days doesn’t really qualify, I was pleased with an opportunity to spend time among Danes and immerse myself in a little of the ‘hygge’ lifestyle. We flew from Bristol with easyjet, the flight was delayed for a time which was pain as we had hosts waiting to hand over keys etc. Bristol Airport  checks, scans and boarding area was a very smooth experience and relaxed. The flight out would’ve been fine but for a few members of a rugby club on a stag do, the minority choosing to swear and make various loud and continuous comments for the duration, the older and what you assume would be more responsible members of the party did little to curb the ‘clubhouse jive’. We were glad to get off and hoping the Danes would experience better manners from them.

Stepping out at the airport to glorious sunshine and hot weather we jumped in a taxi to make up some time and was dropped at the apartment home we were staying at for two nights. Mats and Thea rent out a room through the Airbnb  website and we were welcomed by Mats. We didn’t see him for the rest of the weekend and only met Thea on Saturday night as we and they were out and about or working.

With no time to hang about we readily took up the offer of the loan of their bikes, we were going to hire but no need. Less than half an hour of arriving we were on our way toward Copenhagen city centre taking the ‘green’ route. We visited many of the well known sites and explored easily on the excellent and safe cycle lanes.

A few species of bird were seen but the parks in town were interesting from an odonata point of view, although I was pick-nicking I couldn’t ignore the Downy Emeralds and other dragonflies out enjoying the sun. A wonderful wild park (Amager Fælled)was the final stop on the bikes before heading back at dusk. This wet scrub and grassland area was an amazing space for peace and wildlife, sadly it seems it is threatened with development. A Cuckoo gave us great views as we cycled the paths.

Back at Slusholmen it was noticeable that Common Gulls were about the apartment blocks, these ‘floating’ homes were not quite as is seems due to each one being an island in the sea channel. The gulls were vocal and fairly tame. We walked out across bridges nearby bar and enjoyed the music, atmosphere and a cold beer or two before heading ‘home’.

We were up and about in the morning and took the few steps to the rather healthy cafe across the ‘canal’. We sat outside to eat the granary rolls, pastries and drink coffee and fresh pressed juice to die for. This ceremony  was to be repeated the next day. Replete and keen to explore another huge wetland reserve on the bikes.

Kalvebod Fælled is quite simply a brilliant nature reserve.

We spent much of the day exploring the paths and trails across the country and along the seawall, a lunchtime excursion to a restaurant in Viberup (Lille Kongleund) was the only detour and it didn’t disappoint. The food was great but the Honey Buzzard and Tree Sparrow flocksreally topped it off.

The birds seen include the following…

Mute Swan- seen about the harbours in Copenhagen and in numbers on the wetland reserve.
Greylag Goose- 1000s in the wetland reserve area, also seen flying over the city.
Barnacle Goose– flocks of 100s seen on the wetlands with small parties heading N over the city.
Shelduck
Mallard
Gadwall
Shoveler
Teal
Tufted Duck
Eider- many creches and groups of females on the coast.
Pheasant-introduced birds
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Red-necked Grebe– very common at Kalvebod Faelled. I eventually traced the gallinule/rail like calls to this species, interesting to see them breeding in narrow ditches and all pools.
Cormorant
Grey Heron
Marsh Harrier
Common Buzzard
Honey Buzzard– a male flew over the restaurant at Viberup mobbed by other species.

Honey Buzzard, Viberup, Copenhagen, MJMcGill (18)_edited-1
Hobby- one feeding on odonata over the marshes.
Water Rail
Moorhen
Coot
Oystercatcher
Avocet- dozens
Ringed Plover
Lapwing- large colonies stuffed with young on the wet grasslands and marshes.
Turnstone- one at Kalvebod Faelled
Wood Sandpiper- one heard at Kalvebod Faelled
Black-tailed Godwit
Snipe- displaying birds were drumming overhead.
Ruff- three flew past us near the hides of Kalvebod Faelled
Black-headed Gull- a few darvic ringed birds around the city harbours and parks, too busy to nail them!
Common Gull- seen  (and heard) about Copehagen
Herring Gull
Sandwich Tern- seen along the coast.
Common Tern-about the city park ponds and lakes.~
Caspian Tern- 2-3 fishing the coast and deeper water along the seawall of Kalvebod Faelled.

Caspian Tern, Kalvebod Faelled, MJMcGill

Stock Dove
Woodpigeon
Collared Dove
Cuckoo- singing and showy birds seen and heard at both Amager and Kalvebod Faelled
Swift
Skylark
Woodlark
Swallow
House Martin
Tree Pipit
White Wagtail

White Wagtail, Kalbod Faelled, Copenhagen, MJMcGill (5)_edited-1
Yellow Wagtail- recently juveniles of  the presumed flava race
Thrush Nightingale– singles heard singing on scrubby tree covered banks and motorway embankment on the way to Kalvebod Faelled. A few singing and one showing at Amager Faelled.
Redstart- one singing from a clump of trees at Kalvebod Faelled
Black Redstart- seen and heard around Copenhagen including outside our apartment.
Wheatear- one at Kalvebod Faelled among the cattle.
Whinchat- a pair along the ditches in the open areas of Kalvebod Faelled.
Fieldfare- breeding birds in the Amager Faelled park.
Whitethroat- many seen.
Garden Warbler- heard.
Blackcap- many seen and heard.
Lesser Whitethroat-3-4 seen and heard.
Reed Warbler-heard.
Marsh Warbler– seen and heard in Amager Faelled park
Great Reed Warbler– a scarce bird in Denmark but one male singing and showing brilliantly at Kalvebod Faelled.

Great Reed Warbler, Falbod Faelled, Copenhagen, MJMcGill
Willow Warbler- a few heard.
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Bearded Reedling-seen and heard along the seawall embankment of Kalvebod Faelled.
Magpie
Jay
Raven-2
Hooded Crow- seen around Copenhagen
Starling
House Sparrow- the Ivar Huitfeldt, Langelinie park column statue was releasing sparrows from her heart!

Copenhagen statue, sparrow release, MJMcGill
Tree Sparrow- small flocks along the roadside scrub at Viberup.
Linnet
Reed Bunting

Green-eyed (Norfolk) Hawker at Kalvebod Faelled.

Green-eyed Hawker (Norfolk Hawker), Kalvebod Faelled, MJMcGill (1)_edited-1

North Norfolk 8-10 November 2017

Ruddy Turnstone at Salthouse

Turnstone, Salthouse, MJMcGill

 

Our party of six set off for Norfolk early morning arriving in the county a few hours later, our first stop, Cley next the Sea. We made a short stop at the Cricket Marsh at Cley NWT, Brent Geese being the attraction, searching through the flock Dark-bellied Brent soon revealed a Light (or Pale) bellied Brent but not the Black Brant (or Pacific Brent) that had been around. Other birds could be seen in the distance with Marsh Harrier being particularly obvious, a Stonechat used the telegraph post strainer wire as a handy lookout nearby.

A stop at the Cley NWT visitor centre allowed us to enjoy a hot drink and scan over the marshes. Lots of Wigeon and Teal were on the scrapes with three or more Marsh Harriers in sight at any one time. A walk along the East Bank to the sea followed stopping to scan for a Grey Phalarope that had been seen in the preceding days. Waders noted included parties of Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Redshank. A gathering of gulls contained a first winter Caspian candidate. Seven Eider flew close inshore heading N along the beach, another flock of 13 followed on a bit later, the drakes looked superb.

Turning our attention to the beach shingle it didn’t take long to locate a flock of 43 Snow Buntings, in flight they were very much a blizzard in the blustery wind. Flocks of Wigeon, Brent and Teal also ploughed through into the head wind, no doubt heading for favoured wintering areas. A few Common Scoter, a Gannet and distant divers also passed by. A scan over the marshes gave us a flock of Ruff but these and the other birds present were very mobile.

We searched headed back to the visitor centre and carefully scanned the marshes from the viewpoint, fortunately, although distant I was able to locate the busy Grey Phalarope on Simmond’s Scrape as it manically fed among the other wetland birds. A couple of Little Stint were also picked out.

Finding ourselves back at the cricket marsh we once again tried our luck searching through the Brents, best bird was a Barn Owl that Chris spotted, it gave us sunset views with the famous windmill beyond, this rounded off the day nicely. We made our way back toward Hunstanton where we were to stay for the next two nights.

9 November

After breakfast we were on Hunstanton cliffs by 0920am watching the busy visible migration as 1000s of birds streamed down the Wash Coast. The majority were Starlings in their 1000s, Chaffinches in their 100s as well as Lapwing, Teal and Wigeon in over the sea. Lesser Redpoll, Brambling and Siskin were also seen. On the sea a Red-throated Diver or two, a few Great Crested Grebe,  a Guillemot, Red-breasted Merganser and Common Scoter were added to the list. The local Fulmars put on a good show, no effort needed in their mastery of flight, the strong wind helped.

At Choseley Drying Barns we managed to locate Corn Buntings, flocks of Fieldfare, Blackbirds and Redwing and a flock of 400 Golden Plover but the Dotterel that was seen a couple of days before had clearly moved on.

At Titchwell RSPB the usual winter gathering of ducks were in evidence with large flocks of Golden Plover arriving on the fresh marsh, we headed straight to the sea to catch the top of the tide getting close views of two Bearded Tit and a Chinese Water Deer whilst on the way. It was a good move, two Long-tailed Duck fed close by with their characteristic long dives beginning with wings open in readiness to fly underwater. Another female flew in and landed a little further out. A Red-throated Diver gave good scope views, other species noted included Guillemot, 12 Common Scoter, 7 Red-breasted Merganser, 12+ Great Crested Grebe and a Slavonian Grebe.

The beach was busy with Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit and Turnstone. A Red Kite made a nice change from Marsh Harriers. As the tide dropped we watched waders on the saline scrapes as well as Little Grebes and a Little Egret fishing. Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and Curlew were enjoyed. Back at the visitor centre we took a lunch break and watched Coal Tits on the feeders.

Black-tailed Godwit at Titchwell, RSPB

Black-tailed Godwit with shellfish, MJMcGill

Burnham Overy was our next stop, Barnacle Geese were recorded as well as a handful of Pink-footed and small numbers of Greylag. Driving and stopping a bit further on added a Great White Egret. In the Harbour at Wells next the Sea we saw Brent Geese, Little Grebe and saw another hunting Barn Owl over the fields.

As we returned toward Hunstanton the plan was to call in at a few sites, first stop was a very quiet Land Anne’s Drive at Holkham, nothing of note other than the usual Egyptian Geese in the fields. A sort stop overlooking Burnham Overy again revealed a similar story. No sign of any large flocks of grey geese at all.

Our final sunset stop was at Thornham Harbour, a Barn Owl flew across the road but never stayed around for all to see. On the exposed seawall we realised and welcomed the fact that the wind had dropped, it was calm and still so we simply enjoyed the wildness of the area and the atmosphere.

10 November

We were greeted by another windy but sunny day, another session at Hunstanton cliffs we again used the seaside shelter as a windbreak but there wasn’t much happening on sea and no vis-mig to speak of. With the tide on the way we headed for Thornham Harbour again, Curlew, Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwits fed in the creeks as the water crept in. We located a flock of Twite in the saltmarsh, they obligingly lined up along the fence, 17 were counted before they made their way back to the saltmarsh seeds. Not wanting to be cut off by the tide we moved on leaving the many bird species of the area to carry on with feeding.

Twite at Thornham Harbour

Twite, Thornham, MJMcGill Twite, Thornham Hbr, MJMcGill Twite, MJMcGill

A few short stops to scan in the same places as yesterday didn’t add anything new to species recorded so far so we ended up back at Cley next the Sea. The Brents flew off as we arrived so we went to the beach car park at Salthouse, a tame party of Turnstones waited for us on the shingle allowing close views and photographs. The sea was pretty wild and viewing difficult in the strong wind, a Gannet and Guillemot the pick of what we could actually seein the swell. A flock of 1000+ Pink-footed Geese fed on the hillside nearby.

Another go at locating the Black Brant ensued and this time successful, it gave itself up but not easily. The Snow Bunting flock were also feeding in the fields probably having had enough of the windy conditions.

Various options were mooted to finish up our day but as a group we plumped for a goose search inland, I drove what is normally a reliable route for Pink-feet but there were none, driving a long way inland near to Flitcham we got lucky, a huge flock of Pink-footed Geese were settled with more in the area. A careful scan revealed an orange legged Pink-foot and a smart Tundra Bean Goose that promptly sat down.

Pink-feet

Pink-footed Geese, MJMcGill

Nearby at Abbey Farm we added Grey Partridges, a Red Kite and Tree Sparrows as dusk set in, a decent finale as these species were ‘requested’.

Thank you to Bettie, Barbara, Chris, Anita and Ruth for joining me.

Spurn, Kilnsea and Easington, 19-20 October 2017

 

 

Brambling, 2, Spurn, MJMcGill

 

Brambling on the beach, Spurn (above and below)

Brambling, Spurn, MJMcGill

Hot on the heels of the preceding day out to Dorset was a one night visit to East Yorkshire, we left early an arrived on the north shore of the Humber during mid-morning. The forecast looked great for arrivals from the North Sea. Unfortunately the sea mist and fog was getting denser, visibility reduced to the extent that birding mostly concerned calls. Tree Sparrows, Redpolls, Bramblings, Redwings and a few other species were heard flying over in the murk.

A reported Little Bunting and the long staying Arctic Warbler never appeared, the latter seemingly departed overnight. Another Little Bunting was seen at Spurn Point as well as Olive-backed Pipit and Shore Lark before the fog dropped so it was clear that things were happening, just not clear enough for us to see.

We carefully checked the hedges and scrub logging plenty of migrant Goldcrest, Robin and Redwing but decided to take a timely lunch break at the Blue Bell Cafe in hope that it might clear. Refreshed and watered we made for the sea breach in the gloom. Reaching the open sandy bank that kept the North Sea from the Humber visibility and our luck changed.

A few juvenile Gannets looked lost on the ‘wrong’ side of the sandbank, Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Redshank fed in the tidal pools. A Brambling dropped out of the sky and attempted to alight on Ian’s head opting to plonk down on the sand near him. This exhausted finch had just made it to land, it was in a sorry state but alive and feeding on tidal strand seeds. A Redwing did the same nearby, we began seeing flocks of these small thrushes arriving en masse, 100s of Blackbirds were in among them with a few Fieldfares.

As the afternoon progressed the migration tempo increased to phenomenal levels, 1000s of thrushes were arriving in off the sea, we began seeing numbers of Song Thrush and then Ring Ouzels. At least six were noted but I believe many more were involved. Four cracking drake Eiders flew along the Humber shore.

The thrushes were dropping into any berry bush, we even saw 100+ Redwing crammed onto one garden lawn with Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. A Short-eared Owl arrived overhead and dropped onto the salt marsh to rest, a few Reed Buntings were scrutinised and we had great scope views of feeding Ring Ouzels. A Stonechat and calling Water Rails added to the interest.

All the while the tide was coming in so we had huge flocks of Knot, Dunlin with Grey and Golden Plover, Curlew and a few other species of wader. There was so much to see. Another check of the Crown and Anchor pub car park gave us more views of Bramblings and Chiffchaffs, other than that we could only muster common birds.

We eventually ended up back at beach car park and conducted a little sea watch. Offshore were Little Gulls, a pair of Scaup flew by as did some unidentified auks. Gannets cruised about and a few scoter went through. Flocks of Teal, Wigeon, Pintail and more thrushes were logged, a few thrushes struggled over the sea only just making it ashore.

Finishing off our birding for the day we drove to our accommodation, the grand Royal Hotel in Kingston upon Hull to settle in for the night, a good meal included a ‘Hull pattie’ starter, a new one for those that tried it, a couple of drinks and an early night rounded off the day nicely.

A decent nights rest followed by a great breakfast and we were ready to go birding again, our first stop was at Weeton where we scoped a flock of 350 Pink-footed Geese, they were accompanied by 200 Greylag and a few Greylag x Canada hybrids, a rather unfriendly local let his German Shepherd dog run toward us and proceeded to ask what were up to, he wasn’t happy that we there, we must’ve looked so menacing. Later on it became clear that the goose flock that he hadn’t realised were there had been flushed, we guessed intentionally by him. Yellowhammers and Linnets could also be scoped feeding on the weed seeds nearby, at least they were cheering.

Moving on we stopped at Easington, the long staying Rose-coloured Starling arrived on time when Ian spotted it atop an aerial.

Rose-coloured Starling aka Rosy Pastor or ‘Pink Stink’.

Rose-coloured Starling, Easington, MJMcGill

Our next stop was at Kilnsea Wetlands where we saw Lapwing, 4 Whooper Swans (one juvenile), 4 Little Stints, a Ruff, a flock of Dunlin and a selection of wildfowl. Back at the seaside car park we tried another seawatch, flocks of Starlings were arriving, the dabbling ducks were still moving south and we had better views of a few passing Brent Geese and Common Scoter flocks. On the cliff top a Black Redstart fed which made a nice addition.

Wandering back along the lane seeing flocks of Tree Sparrows we stopped at Kilnsea churchyard where two Chiffchaff and a smart Yellow-browed Warbler gave intermittent views, the latter bird also called for us many times.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Kilnsea

 

Yellow-browed Warbler, Kilnsea, MJMcGill

 

Yellow-browed Warbler, 2, Kilnsea, MJMcGill

Another check of the Crown and Anchor pub car park we saw a few common passerines but it was now getting breezy and harder to bird. After another lunch stop and short birding walk we loaded up mid-afternoon and set off for home getting back for 7pm.

Thanks go to Ian, Bettie, Roberta and Dot for your company, it was so good to catch Spurn on a good vis-mig day.

Martin

18 October 2017, another day to Dorset, nailed it!

This day trip was the result of a change of plan, the night before departing. I had been keeping a close eye on the forecasts and migration news all week so with this in mind and knowing everyone had agreed to heading for ‘hot’ spots, it was great to have the luxury of flexibility.

Firecrest

Firecrest, St Aldhelm's Head, MJMcGill

2017 has been kind to Dorset, the county has been having a great autumn, a large variety of interesting migrants have been seen and this week was no exception. News of a little gem, a Two barred (Greenish) Warbler and weather conditions that could bring in more birds made Dorset a decent option.

Four of us left at 0630am with nothing too much to worry about traffic wise, on reaching Weymouth I decided to stop for a comfort/hot drink break before starting our birding but noticed a strange noise from my car. Pulling into Morrison’s (other supermarkets are available) to park up I found that I had picked up a large nail on my front tyre, it was flat.

Coffee and loos were the next priority then I set about changing the flat only to find a problem with the locking wheel nut, I had no option but to call out my breakdown service. Fortunately as we were adjacent to Lodmoor RSPB I suggested that my keen company walked the paths across the wetland reserve to start the day’s birding.

Back at the car I was towed to a nearby garage and was back on the road after an hour or so meeting up with everyone and began looking for birds. They’d already had the Marsh Harrier and a pair of Raven as well as a number of other bird species. We focussed on the waders and a showy Kingfisher from the shelter. Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, 40+ Snipe and three Little Stints were all watched, a smart Water Pipit joined the Meadow Pipits, the former giving great views.

Walking to the west side of Lodmoor we watched two very close juvenile Ruff and a variety of wildfowl, an adult Mediterranean Gull was welcome but our target bird gave itself up easily, a juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs fed along the back of the pool stopping to preen. The legs really stood out on this misty, dull morning.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Moving on we headed up to Broadcroft Quarry on Portland, our first bird was a migrant male Hawfinch, it was great to get on the invasion of this species to the UK this autumn albeit just the one. Checking the sycamores and scrub we saw Blackcaps, Goldcrests and Chiffchaff, one clump of trees held a Red-breasted Flycatcher which showed very well indeed as it flicked about in the canopy. A Robin chased it on a few occasions, another good autumn bird under our belts for the day.

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Portland, MJMcGill Red-breasted Flycatcher, 2, Portland, MJMcGill

We moved on to Purbeck heading staight for St Aldhelm’s Head to look over the little quarry that was still being worked. Scanning the trees we had great views of up to five handsome Firecrests, another species that had arrived in huge numbers in the preceding days. A few Chiffchaff were also noted until we got views of the Two-barred (Greenish) Warbler. Giving it a bit more time we all got good views of this rare bird when the sun brightened things up bringing the birds into the open.

Two-barred Greenish Warbler

Two-barred Greenish Warbler, St Aldhelm's Head, MJMcGill TwoBar, MJMcGill Two Bar, 2, MJMcGill

Other species noted in the vicinity were Yellowhammers, Stonechats and a variety of commoner passerines but the light was fading so we called it day and headed home. A good day out.

Thank you to Roberta, Bettie and Dot for joining me, it was good to get a ‘lifer’

Martin

 

Cornwall, 6-7 October 2017

Bar-tailed Godwit, Copperhouse Creek

Bar-tailed Godwit, Copperhouse Creek, MJMcGill

The second of this autumn’s trips, this time a long overdue outing to the South West peninsula, everyone had an early start to ensure we could be on the road for 0600hrs, a good move as we got through the traffic only stopping the once for provisions and a comfort stop in Devon.

Our next stop was near Davidstow, as we arrived at the open, sheep grazed airfield we were stopped by a chap in high visibility clothing, he was operating a roadblock system due to a film crew taking over much of the area, he asked us not to go into the filming area,  it didn’t look good for finding our target bird. A scan from one vantage point proved the airfield was very disturbed, no sign of any waders but Colin spotted a Black Redstart flitting about on the derelict buildings before flying off to the south.

I decided to try another spot, whilst driving along the road a brief stop revealed where ‘our’ Buff-breasted Sandpiper was feeding. We parked and walked back to the section of runway, (viewing from the grass) and got great views of this little wanderer from its North American Arctic breeding grounds.  Preferring not be alone it’s chosen company happened to be two juvenile Ringed Plover. After enjoying this smart bird at one of the most reliable places to see this species in the UK we visited the nearby Crowdy Reservoir.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpipr and Ringed Plover, MJMcGill

The weather was glorious so the passerines were out in force, Meadow Pipits, 3 Wheatear, Pied and Grey Wagtails as well as flyover Siskins. On the water Mallards, Teal and a lone Wigeon joined the 6 or so Great Crested Grebes.

It was time to head down to Hayle where we stopped at Copperhouse Creek, Philps Pasty shop and the Hayle Estuary. At Copperhouse creek we enjoyed Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Greenshank, Redshank, Curlew and large numbers of Herring Gulls. At the pasty shop Ian added Kingfisher to the list and the pasties were delicous (sorry Colin). For the coeliacs out there do ring ahead and they will bake a special for you.

Bar-tailed Godwit (above) and Black-tailed Godwit (below) showing the difference in wing markings.

Bar-tailed Godwit in flight, MJM

Black-tailed Godwit, CC

Birding at Copperhouse Creek

Copperhouse Creek

A short distance away we parked at Hayle RSPB we walked down to the Carsnew Basin and then followed the road to the main creek before returning to the car, the estuary was busy, at the basin we saw a Rock Pipit, a Dunlin, 2 Little Grebe, more godwits and Curlew and an adult Mediterranean Gull plunge-dived for food. From the causeway we looked carefully through the Teal and Wigeon flocks and checked the Redshank, Curlew and godwits. Ryan’s Field from the hide was rather quiet so we moved on.

Next stop was Cape Cornwall where we walked to Kendijack, the views were amazing, Gannets and Grey Seals were offshore and pairs and small parties of Chough cruising up and down the valley. A Peregrine was noted as was a Kestrel and a few Stonechats. Ice creams were consumed by some, cold drinks by others as we sat on the wall taking the fine weather in.

Cape Cornwall and Kendijack

Cape Cornwall 90715_edited-1 Kendijack

We moved on stopping to check a large field at Sennen and then headed down to Porthgwarra, it was calm and still so we systematically checked the trees and bushes in the valley, over 30 Goldcrests, one Chiffchaff, 8 Stonechats, 2 Raven and a few Great and Blue Tits were seen. This site has hosted many rare visitors but we couldn’t conjur a scarcity in the fading light, the very next morning an American Cliff Swallow was seen briefly which proves the point.

It was time to get to our hotel for the night in Carbis Bay and a quick turnaround saw us ready for dinner with a drink to unwind and chat about the day. We discussed plans for the next day, we decided to go to the Scilly Isles as the overnight winds and poor forecast didn’t bode well for birding in Cornwall but offered potential for seabirds and the Scillies. Purchasing a day return ticket in Penzance we were soon on the 0830hrs Scillonian III sailing, destination St Mary’s, the ship offered us sea-birding and it sure didn’t disappoint.

Soon after leaving Penzance Harbour we were watching seabirds, Shags, Gannets and Kittiwakes were the most numerous species but  4 Arctic Skua, 2 Great Skua, 8+ Balearic, 1 Sooty and 4 Manx Shearwater were also noted.

I had booked a taxi on St Mary’s so we got off the boat and into the bus for a short journey to Porthellick. A walk out to the bay to look for the  juvenile American Golden Plover rewarded us with great views as it was feeding on the bay at low tide. Turnstones and Ringed Plover also fed as well as a Greenshank. Two geese flew in calling, circled and flew off again, Pink-footed Geese!

American Golden Plover, Porthellick Bay

AGP, St Mary's, MJMcGill AGP

With a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk we checked the sallows and listened, a short stop at the hide overlooking Porthellick pool gave us a close flock of Snipe and Grey Wagtail. Swallows and a House Martin flew overhead. Resuming our search of the sallows gave up more Goldcrests until I heard a Yellow-browed Warbler call.

We spent over half an hour trying to get good views of this little warbler, it called and showed on and off but usually in deep cover but sometimes quite close. A Blackcap was also noted. Ian spotted a Scilly Shrew on the road, it wasn’t in the best of health so it was moved to a safer spot offering us the chance to study this tiny mammal.

Scilly Shrew

Scilly Shrew

 

A walk back to the quay took us to Carreg Dhu gardens, a rest at Longstones Cafe, to Old Town Bay, through Lower Moors, past Porthmellon Beach to Hugh Town.  Plnety of birds were seen but the only new trip bird was Water Rail (calling and one seen swimming across a channel), we missed the Spotted Crake by a few minutes, we never had time to wait for the next appearance.

Back aboard the Scillonian III we settled in for another seawatch, sailing out on another route passing St Martin’s we picked up two Great Northern Divers off Watermill/Innisidgen before leaving the islands, in the open sea the following species were noted on the crossing 1 Puffin, 1 Manx Shearwater, 50+ Balearic Shearwater, 3 Sooty Shearwater, 1 Fulmar, 8 Great Skua, 7 Arctic Skua, Guillemots and Razorbills, a confused juvenile Shag that circled the boat repeatedly as well as lots of Kittiwakes and Gannets.

The shearwaters were amazing, seeing rafts of Balearic’s and a close comparison of Balearic and Sooty Shearwater taking off in unison were notable but the Common Dolphin pod stole the show, a group came storming in and gave us a great show. An unforgettable and brilliant couple of hours.

After docking we walked backed to the car (some with chips, me included) and prepared for the drive back to Gloucestershire, a bit of poor weather was left behind in Cornwall and one brief stop was made at Exeter services  before we ended the journey and our birding trip.

Thanks to everyone who joined me, it was a fun trip.

Martin

Redshank on the Hayle Estuary

Redshank, Hayle Estuary, MJM

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