Saturday, 31 August 2013

Autumn status quo

Hello

Today's early morning walk at Harrington Airfield yielded 1-2 Redstart(s) and a Turtle Dove again to the west of the main concrete track plus a Wheatear in the same vicinity.  The airstrip bushes attracted plenty of Linnets and Whitethroats but visible migration was seemingly very limited.  Good numbers of Kestrels are currently using the airfield and at least one Red Kite was present too.  Two Ravens were between Beck Dairy and Gamboro' Plantation (near Cottesbrooke) later in the morning.

A Hobby was overhead at Hanging Houghton and visits to local reservoirs this afternoon produced only modest sightings.  The Welford/Sulby duo hosted 2 Common Sandpipers, 7 Common Terns, a Kingfisher and 2 Ravens over, with a Red Kite nearby.  Naseby Res was busy with fishermen and the only bird of note was a Grey Wagtail.  Hollowell's water levels refuse to drop and birds here consisted of 2 Ravens on the ridge over-looking the reservoir, 2 Red Kites (an uncommon sight here), an adult Yellow-legged Gull and 3 Snipe.

A ringing session at Stortons GP this morning resulted in the capture of over 50 birds which included 5 new Cetti's Warblers, 5 Blackcaps and a Green Woodpecker.  Over 200 new Reed Warblers have been ringed at this relatively small site this year alone!

This evening and the juvenile Marsh Harrier was again in the Brampton Valley between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton and an adult Osprey flew over Blueberry Farm towards Haselbech.  Four Whinchats were yet again in the southern-most field of the Blueberry Farm complex.

Regards
  Eleanor and Neil


 
Adult Common Tern
Welford Res

 
Greylag and Canada Geese
Welford Res.  Many local
waters are seeing increases
in these geese as birds from
outlying ponds and lakes are
gathering at suitable sites.
 

 
Chiffchaff
Welford Res

 
Long-tailed Tit preening
in the sunshine at Welford
Reservoir





Friday, 30 August 2013

Autumn migrants

Hello

Yesterday evening (Thursday) saw two Hobbies chasing each other around in the Walgrave Bay at Pitsford Res.

A ringing session was completed at Pitsford Res today (Friday), focussing mainly in the Scaldwell Bay.  Seventy-four birds were caught which included 3 Mallard, a Kingfisher, 6 Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler, 2 Whitethroats, a Sedge Warbler, 2 Reed Warblers, a Willow Warbler and 3 Chiffchaffs.  A Nuthatch there evaded capture!

Birds at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this morning included 4 Whinchats in the southern-most field and 2 Red Kites.

An evening walk at Harrington Airfield this evening was productive with a juvenile Ring Ouzel near the middle bunker on the old airstrip, a Short-eared Owl, 2 Turtle Doves, a Red Kite and a Hobby.

The gull roost at Pitsford Res provided views of a juvenile Caspian Gull, 6 Yellow-legged Gulls, a juvenile Mediterranean Gull and 4-6 Common Terns, all visible from the yacht club.

Finally please view the new tab 'Little Owl' with some more excellent images from John Boland and an invitation to come up with a suitable caption!

Regards

Eleanor and Neil

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Repeat Performance !

Today has certainly felt like " I've seen this all before!".  I started with an early morning walk along the valley between HH and Cottesbrooke. There were 4 Whinchat in their usual corner of a field, a large mixed flock of birds moving along the usual hedge, including a Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat and Wheatear.  A "cream crown" Marsh Harrier was again quartering the wheat fields.
However the combine harvesters are now busy in these fields, so I expect these birds will become displaced.
At 10.30 whilst I sat in the garden drinking my coffee and unpacking a very precious parcel an Osprey went over, as did 2 Red Kite and a Hobby. 
With parcel unpacked it was time to go and try it out......my new telescope had arrived !!! So I headed offto Pitsford Reservoir. As I loitered by the gorse bushes, trying out my new scope I saw an/the Osprey heading my way. This was 11.15hrs. As I watched it circled several times before heading towards the dam, but it soon reappeared and to my delight began fishing right in front of me again. This bird is a real star and has given me some of my best ever views of Osprey in the county.  It caught a fish on its second attempt which looked like a reasonable sized trout.  The gulls immediately began to hassle the Osprey, no doubt hoping for a free meal, but there was no way in which the Osprey was going to give up its fish, and despite being quite acrobatic when catching the fish, it was certainly quite clumsy as it swerved to avoid the gulls. The Osprey with fish flew towards the causeway.
Other birds on the big side included 4 Little Egret, 2 Greenshank and 2 Black Tailed Godwits.
I concluded my visit and "new scope test" by scanning from the feeding station where I soon picked out a Goldeneye and 2 female Red Crested Pochard.

Regards  Eleanor

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Breeding Productivity

Hello

Dave Francis concluded the Constant Effort Site bird ringing survey for another year at Pitsford Res this morning.  All the early indications are that this year was much better than last year in respect of young bird productivity.  A good example was today's effort which saw 66 birds being caught, of which it was assessed that 62 of them were hatched during this calendar year.  Late brood Wrens and Bullfinch made up the larger numbers of the catch today (Bullfinch is traditionally a late breeder).  Other birds caught included 7 Reed Warblers (lots of young birds moving through the site this year), a Sedge Warbler, 6 Blackcaps, 3 Whitethroats, a Garden Warbler, a Willow Warbler and 3 Chiffchaffs.

A heavy Swallow passage was evident overhead in the county today with good numbers passing south all day.  Another hundred or so birds have been caught by John Woollett and team at the reed bed roost at Stortons GP during this week, in addition to the birds caught last week.

An evening meander around Harrington Airfield this evening didn't provide much of note but there was a single Wheatear by the straw bales on the concrete track and common raptors provided good views.

Regards

Eleanor and Neil



 
Big birds over
Harrington Airfield!

Pitsford WeBS Count

Hello

Today was the Pitsford Reservoir Waterbird Count, and another day whereby we attempted to count the birds using the habitat.  Most of the more interesting birds were repeats from the last couple of weeks but we failed to locate the Great White Egret (if it is still present).

An adult Osprey flew in just before 12 noon and watched over the Scaldwell Bay for a time before heading back south.  Two female Red-crested Pochard were in the Walgrave Bay and other birds north of the causeway included a Goldeneye, a Garganey, 5 Little Egrets, a Greenshank and 4 Common Sandpipers.  Birds south of the causeway included 4 Little Egrets (probably some duplication with birds north of the causeway as they are very mobile), 2 Greenshank, 2 Common Sandpipers and a Goldeneye.

Regards

E & N



 
Male Migrant Hawker

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

One of those days !!

It has been one of those days !!  .......a glorious Autumn day full of expectation which was fueled by 2 Crossbills and a Grey Wagtail going over the garden this morning. So I headed for Harrington Airfield where a good yomp round with my faithful old collie produced nothing . I couldn't find a single bird of note and the silence of the bushes was deafening !!!!
A couple of visits to the causeway at Pitsford produced the same result.
This evening Neil and I walked a huge circuit around Blueberry and the valley between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke, where again the birds proved elusive. The only compensation being a rather beautiful sunset. But.....at 19.50hrs we picked up a Marsh Harrier hunting the wheat fields between HH and Cottesbrooke. As we watched it made several attempts to catch prey and finally it did appear to be "wrestling" with something on the ground.

Regards Eleanor and Neil

Monday, 26 August 2013

Swallow alert

Hello

Red Kite and Hobby are providing daily viewings over the garden these days alongside the more regular Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard.  The few pairs of Swallows in the village are very good at alerting us whenever one of the smaller raptors are around but it is important for them to recognise the correct species of avian hunter.  Certainly there is a different tone to their warning calls when a Hobby arrives within their air-space, perhaps one of the few predators that can out-manoeuvre a Swallow, albeit that they probably lose more of their kin to the 'smash and grab' tactics of the Sparrowhawk.  With both Hobby and Sparrowhawk feeding large young locally they are under pressure to hunt more regularly thus their visits to and around the garden are probably now at their most frequent and the Swallows probably at their most anxious!

A visit to Pitsford Res this evening produced a Hobby, 2 Greenshanks and 4 Little Egrets.

Regards

E & N

Bank Holiday birds

Hello

A wander around Harrington Airfield this morning failed to locate any birds of note.  Three Grey Wagtails were present at Brixworth Sewer Works.

This afternoon a visit to the Blueberry Farm area near Maidwell provided a juvenile Marsh Harrier flying towards Haselbech at 4.30pm, and there were 6 Whinchats in the southern-most field.

Regards

E & N




Male Southern Hawker


Small Tortoiseshell

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Reservoir Dog!

Hello

This afternoon we paid some visits to local reservoirs, starting at Welford/Sulby.  Here there were two juvenile Black Terns, 7 Common Terns and 2 Common Sandpipers.  Next was Naseby where the Great Crested Grebes have clearly had a great breeding year with lots of youngsters of all ages.  Other birds here included 3 Common Sandpipers and 2 Grey Wagtails.  A visit to Hollowell Res provided just 5 Common Terns and a Ruff.

The gull roost at Pitsford Res this evening yielded 2 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Yellow-legged Gulls, 6 Common Terns and an adult Black Tern.

Also this evening, 4 Whinchats were again present in the southern-most field at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell.

Regards

Eleanor and Neil


 
'Minding the 'scope'


 
Juvenile Black Tern
Welford Res

 
Common Sandpiper
Naseby Res

Harrington raptor

Hello

Eleanor was again up at Harrington Airfield late this morning.  The Marsh Harrier was still present near to the airfield pond and 2 Turtle Doves and a Redstart were still in the bushes west of the concrete track by the straw bale stacks.

A large pale raptor flew over which was either carrying something or had jesses hanging down and remained unidentified (it reminded her of a Short-toed Eagle)!

Neil M

Pitsford scan am

Hello

Scanning in dull but humid conditions at Pitsford Res this morning failed to locate much new of note.  Surprisingly there didn't seem to be any tern species present at all (in stark contrast to other inland waters) and the only birds of note seen were three adult Yellow-legged Gulls, 4 Little Egrets, 2 Greenshank, a Common Sandpiper and a Swift.

Regards

Neil M

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Pitsford Gull Roost

Hello

A gloomy gull roost at Pitsford Res this evening produced a juvenile Mediterranean Gull and at least 10 Yellow-legged Gulls amongst 700 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.


Neil M

Pitsford pm

Hello

Birds south of the causeway at Pitsford Res this afternoon included a Little Egret, a Greenshank, 4 Ruff and the Bar-headed Goose still.

Sightings north of the causeway amounted to an adult Osprey that flew in to the Scaldwell bay at 5.25pm and caught a fish at the third attempt, a Greenshank, 3 Common Sandpipers, a Goldeneye, two female Red-crested Pochard, a Little Egret, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, a Redstart and a Spotted Flycatcher (latter two in the Feeding Station bushes). 

The Vulcan flew past a couple of times to the dismay of the geese flocks!

Regards

E & N

Blueberry and immediate area

Hello

A wander this morning in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and the lower fields at Blueberry Farm indicated it was very quiet for birds.  A few small parties of birds called from hedgerows and a few over-flying Yellow Wagtails was the most significant activity.  A very active adult Red Kite was the only thing seriously stretching a wing albeit that the landowners at Blueberry Farm saw a hunting Short-eared Owl this morning over the fields on top of the hill towards Haselbech, which is about the right time for this species to make an appearance.

Regards

E & N

Friday, 23 August 2013

Pitsford Scan

Hello

A scan from the causeway and the Maytrees Hide area at Pitsford Res in very grey conditions this evening provided views of at least two female Red-crested Pochards, a Goldeneye and two Little Egrets.

Regards

E & N

Ditchford

Hello

This afternoon was spent at Ditchford GP, and six species of raptor included a juvenile Marsh Harrier west of Ditchford Lane at 1.10pm.  Other birds of interest included 2 Hobbies, 2 Little Egrets, a Greenshank, a Green Sandpiper, 2 Egyptian Geese, a Redstart, 2 Whinchats, a Cuckoo, 7 Kingfishers and a Cetti's Warbler.  Plenty of insects on the go included 2 Clouded Yellow butterflies.

Regards

E & N



 
Large White

 
Peacock

 
Small Tortoiseshell

 
Common Frog

 
Marsh Harrier

 
Clouded Yellow

 
Spitfire and friends

 
Juvenile Common Tern

Hot Harrington

Hello

A ramble around the Harrington Airfield complex this morning resulted in a Cuckoo on the old airstrip and a small pocket of birds in the bushes just west of the main concrete track and near to the straw bales which included 2 Redstarts, 3 Spotted Flycatchers and 2 Turtle Doves.

Regards

E & N

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Bits and pieces

Hello

The Swallow roost total of birds caught and ringed at Stortons GP on Wednesday evening was 125.

A ringing session completed by Dave Francis at the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station at Pitsford Res on Wednesday evening and this morning resulted in the capture of 25 new birds including 7 Tree Sparrows.  This provides a total of 52 Tree Sparrows ringed at the feeding station for the month of August alone.  Other birds ringed included 4 Reed Warblers, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Sparrowhawk.

A Common Buzzard spent time fixated on the feeding station with a presumed interest in the rodents coming to the food and Dave also noted 6 Little Egrets, a Green Sandpiper and 2 Common Sandpipers (all Wednesday evening).  Two Muntjac enjoyed munching their way through some of the broadcast seed!

This evening (Thursday) and the gull roost off the yacht club at Pitsford Res produced 2 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls and four Yellow-legged Gulls.

Regards

Neil M

Osprey!

Hello

A run along the Brampton Valley Way this morning between Merry Tom Lane and Hanging Houghton failed to locate any specific birds of interest, so off I went to Harrington Airfield (again).  A Marsh Harrier was again present as were two Turtle Doves which showed particularly well.  Six Crossbills flew over in a westerly direction.

Later in the day and a visit to Pitsford Res was memorable due to the exploits and proximity of a fishing Osprey.  This adult bird, seemingly without rings, flew a couple of lengths of the big side between the causeway and the dam at about 1.55pm before splashing in to the water unsuccessfully in the Pintail Bay.  It then came flying down the reservoir and dived in to the water only about a 100 metres away next the gorse bushes and in very close proximity to a fishing boat, to the surprise and exclamation of the two occupants!

The Osprey then rested on the water's surface with wings extended for quite a period to the point that I was becoming a little concerned.  One of the fishermen had time to find his camera and take some images!  With much labour, the avian fisher then attempted to rise from the water with an impossibly huge fish.  On the third attempt the fish was pulled from the water but after rising to only about two feet from the surface, it was clear that the fish was just too heavy and it was released with a big splash!

The bird then disappeared off in a northerly direction, only to re-appear at 2.55pm and again seemingly to go fishing south of the causeway.

A Goldeneye and a Garganey were present near to the Maytrees Hide.

Late this afternoon there were four Whinchats in the southern-most field of Blueberry Farm next to the Cottesbrooke/Hanging Houghton track.

Regards

Eleanor

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Late evening update

Hello

This evening birds in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton included 4 Whinchats and a singing Grasshopper Warbler.

The efforts at ringing Swallows at Stortons GP was successful with approximately 100 birds caught with about another 250 - 300 birds present.  The exact number will be assessed as the birds are processed and safely roosted overnight for release at dawn tomorrow.  Other birds caught included Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and a Cetti's Warbler.  Calling birds heard included Hobby, Water Rail and Kingfisher.

Regards

Eleanor and Neil M

August migrants

Hello

A visit to Harrington Airfield this morning did not result in any sightings of yesterday's Woodchat Shrike.  Birds present included a Marsh Harrier still, a Cuckoo and a Turtle Dove.

Birds north of the causeway at Pitsford Res this morning included an adult Yellow-legged Gull still, two Little Egrets, a Green Sandpiper, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Kingfisher.

In the Brampton Valley today between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke there was a Stonechat, 2 Whinchats, a Wheatear and a Clouded Yellow butterfly.

An Osprey flew over Hanging Houghton in a westerly direction at about 11.30am and other birds seen from the garden included Red Kite and Hobby.

Regards

Eleanor and Neil

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Local ringing

Hello

Yesterday evening (Monday), and a ringing session at Stortons GP aimed at catching roosting Swallows was successful with 40 birds caught (including a controlled bird from elsewhere) plus other species of birds were captured too.  A repeat performance is planned for tomorrow evening (Wednesday).

At Pitsford Res this morning, Dave Francis ringed over 60 birds in the Scaldwell Bay as part of the Constant Effort Site monitoring process.  Warblers included 5 Whitethroats, 4 Blackcaps, 4 Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff, a Sedge Warbler and 2 Reed Warblers.  Variety was in the shape of 2 Kingfishers and a Jay and numbers were provided in the plump shape of 10 Wrens!

This evening birds north of the causeway at Pitsford Res included an adult Yellow-legged Gull, a Hobby, a Little Egret and a Green Sandpiper.

Regards

Neil M

Woodchat!

Hello

This afternoon a juvenile Woodchat Shrike was showing well at Harrington Airfield, in the close vicinity of the first bunker walking from the chippings compound.  An old 19th Century record is the only previous record of this species in the county.  A Hobby was also on show as well as plenty of Common Buzzards and a very tatty Red Kite.

Regards

Eleanor and Neil




 
Juvenile Woodchat Shrike.
This bird was sallying after
large insects such as wasps
and bees and consuming them.
It was seen to cough up a pellet
and impale a Bumblebee on a rose
thorn as part of a larder, something
the shrike family is famous for.

Back home to roost

Hello

Yesterday morning saw Neil H and I depart from Skokholm after an early morning ringing session which resulted in the capture and release of seven Manx Shearwaters and a Jackdaw.  The boat trip back was pleasant, the boat influenced with a heavy swell but we were bathed in lovely sunshine to top up our suntans.  An adult Mediterranean Gull and a flock of Kittiwakes were good to see; a distant feeding flock of Gannets gathered over a small pod of Common Dolphins.

It was then a slow drive back along the A40 through Wales, the occasional Red Kite dotting the horizon.  A short break at Symonds Yat in Gloucestershire was again good with several species of raptor on show including a Hobby and a juvenile Peregrine with prey.

A quick scan over some farmland near Kelmarsh yielded a single Clouded Yellow butterfly and then it was time for some supper at Hanging Houghton.

Eleanor in the meantime continued her scouring of the local area and at Harrington Airfield in the afternoon located a Marsh Harrier which was hunting fields west of the concrete track at about 5.15pm, a Red Kite, 2 Ravens and a Turtle Dove.

This morning we both (EKMcM and me) went up to Harrington Airfield but the heat haze affected scanning across the fields.  Raptors included many Common Buzzards, a Red Kite and a distant raptor that may have been a Marsh Harrier.  However the best bird was an Osprey which slowly moved over the area at 10.25am, heading off towards Pitsford Res.  A Hobby was dramatically hunting Swallows here at Hanging Houghton at 12 noon.

Regards

Neil M


 
Juvenile Common Buzzard
Symonds Yat

 
Juvenile Kestrel
on straw bales
Harrington Airfield

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sunny Sunday

Yesterday evening there were 2 rather wind blown Whinchat and a Wheatear in the valley below Hanging Houghton.
As I fed the birds in the garden this morning it was obvious that "birds" were on the move as a Tree Pipit, Siskin and 2 Crossbills flew over. So after grabbing a quick coffee and the dogs I headed to Harrington Airfield, where a wander round produced another Tree Pipit, at least 6 Crossbills, Turtle Dove and "cream crown" Marsh Harrier, as well as good numbers of Whitethroat, Willow Warblers, Finches and Linnets.
The afternoon was spent at Blueberry/Valley between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke area. It was another one of those sunny and breezy afternoons, so it was no great surprise to see numerous Common Buzzards, who were joined by 2 Hobby and  2 very tatty Red Kites ,one of whom had lost its tail, giving it a rather strange profile. A "cream crown" Marsh Harrier and Osprey also passed through, but passerines were keeping out of sight. !
An evening walk a Harrington was very quiet, apart from a "cream crown" Marsh Harrier.

Regards Eleanor

Last Day on Skokholm

Hello

Still breezy on Skokholm today but very sunny and warm, this being our last full day on the island.  Some early morning ringing produced a mixture of birds including Manx Shearwater, Herring Gull, Jackdaw and a couple of Rock Pipits.

Plenty of butterflies and day-flying moths on the wing today, with rather more Silver Y moths than we had noticed before.

However despite various walks around the island no obvious new bird migrants were located.

Regards

Neil H and Neil M


 
Juvenile Lesser
Black-backed Gull

 
Slow Worm


 
Manx Shearwater nestling

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Stormy Skokholm!


Hello

A big change in the weather here on Skokholm today, hence why a blog at this time!  Strong winds and horizontal rain has islanders scuttling for shelter.  Sea-watching has been a rather damp and difficult affair and to date only common sea-birds have been noted, albeit in impressive numbers and close.

Last night we worked on catching Storm Petrels again, finishing at about 2.30am.  Working as a team with mist net extractors, ringers and recorders , we managed to catch just over a hundred birds, with just a few recaptured birds from the previous session.

The below images were taken on Skokholm in the sunshine yesterday...

Regards

Neil H and Neil M



 
Fulmar


 
Juvenile Herring Gull
(exceptionally white upper
tail for this species at this age)

 
Chough

 
Juvenile Great
Black-backed Gull
 
 
Adult Great
Black-backed Gull

 
Two big influences on
Skokholm - Rabbit and
Ragwort

 
Juvenile Raven

Early Morning Egret Encounter !!

I was up at dawn today and decided to walk around the big side of Pitsford Reservoir, before it got too busy with runners and cyclists. It was a lovely morning and to my surprise between the causeway and catwalk bay I could see 5 Little Egret and their larger companion the Great White Egret !!  Goodness knows where that has been hiding as it is the first time I've managed to see this bird.  There were also 2 Little Egret tucked in the back of grange bay and a further single bird in the yatch bay, so there could be as many as 8 Little Egret on the big side.  
Other birds of note were 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpiper and a Ringed Plover.
Good numbers of wildfowl building up, notably Tufted Duck and Gadwall.......just in time for the pending Webs Count, oh joy !!

Regards Eleanor

Friday, 16 August 2013

Friday Flocks

Today was spent birding the easy way by watching a couple of large flocks of passerines as they moved through the bushes and hedgerows.
As I arrived at Harrington Airfield, in between showers, It was soon apparent that the bushes were alive ! I simply started at the main entrance and followed a large group of passerines as they "bush" hopped along the track.  There was a good mixture of species, ages and plumage.  I lost count how many Willow Warblers and Whitethroats were present, which suggested a "fall"  due to the weather conditions. A high proportion of the flock were Reed Buntings, Goldfinches, Greenfinch, Linnet and Blue Tit, but also notable were at least 8 Blackbirds.  Other birds of note in the flock were a Redstart and 2+ Lesser Whitethroat.
A "cream crown" Marsh Harrier was again west of the track, a Turtle Dove flying around, and a single Curlew passing over calling.
My second flock was this evening in the valley below Hanging Houghton. There is a particular hedge which we have discovered over the years is attractive to birds on the move. Well I could hear them long before I could see them !!! Long Tailed Tits which were leading the way along the hedge.  This flock was very different to the Harrington flock and consisted of mainly Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits, but there were also good numbers of Whitethroat and Willow Warbler. This bird flock was well in excess of 60 individuals and as I watched they just kept coming and coming !!  And you just never know what might be mixed in and tonight there was a Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Garden Warbler and 2 Whinchat.

Regards  Eleanor

Skokholm Sunshine

Hello

Today's weather on Skokholm was initially grey and windy but then changed to glorious sunshine and blue skies.  A small fall of birds occurred this morning with a notable increase in Willow Warblers plus one or two other passerines including a Spotted Flycatcher.  Waders are thin on the ground but Curlew and Whimbrel continue to pass through and loiter in small numbers and a Turnstone was new this morning. 

After ringing for much of the morning we decided on a walk around the island which was particularly pleasant.  Plenty of insects about included still large numbers of Small Copper butterfies and much smaller numbers of Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Peacock.

Pods of Common Dolphin have been seen off the island for three consecutive days now, the diving Gannets giving away their position to island-based observers.  Sea-watching produced impressive numbers of Gannets and Kittiwakes plus a Mediterranean Gull.

Three pairs of Chough live on the island, any sighting normally preceded by their sneezing but explosive 'Cheow' call as they career past, displaying impossibly bright red bills and legs, glossy feather sheen and fingered round-edged wings.

My thanks to Helen Harding for the below images taken around the island during the last two days...

Neil M



 
Close-up views of the head
and eye of an adult
Lesser Black-backed Gull

 
Wren




 
Various views on Skokholm




Mid week round up

Apologies for late news, but this has been due to unforeseen circumstances.
Wednesday's birding was confined to Harrington Airfield where a single "cream crown" Marsh Harrier, again west of the main track, was seen, and the only other bird of note being a Turtle Dove,
On Thursday I managed to fit in quite a bit of birding.  First visit was Harrington Airfield where a "cream crown" Marsh Harrier was seen on and off between 07.00hrs and 08.00hrs, again favouring the are west of the main track. Two Crossbills flew over.
I decided to run around the big side at Pitsford Reservoir, something which I haven't done for a while. A quick scan around from the causeway before I set off produced an Osprey, Little Egret and Common Sandpiper.  The only birds I saw on my run round were two more Little Egret.  The water level is slowly dropping leaving a few muddy margins exposed.  A look from the feeding station produced a Common Sandpiper and a Goldeneye.
The afternoon was spent in the Blueberry/ Valley between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke.  It was another one of those sunny and breezy afternoons, loved by myself and also by the raptors and corvids.  As I sat at the top of Blueberry Hill I easily counted double figures of Common Buzzards, a Red Kite, Hobby and a party of 5 Ravens came over, making all kinds of weird and wonderful noises. 
In the valley area were at least 6 Whinchat in their favourite corner of the field as well as a singing Grasshopper Warbler.
As I approached the car I noted a raptor flying parallel with me, it was a "cream crown" Marsh Harrier !!. As I watched it quartering the wheat fields I picked up another 2 raptors with it, another "cream crown" Marsh Harrier and a Red Kite.  They made such a stunning sight and I count myself very lucky to have witnessed this, I do wonder if these Marsh Harriers are the "Harrington" birds, as it wouldn't take them long to move around between these two sites.

Regards   Eleanor

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Nocturnal activity on Skokholm

Hello

Yesterday was something of a slow day on Skokholm for migration albeit that some drizzle in the morning provided some visible migration of both Curlew and Whimbrel.

During the sunny periods, large numbers of Small Copper butterflies whizzed around the sea of Ragwort and there were plenty of Red Admirals and small numbers of Meadow Browns and 'whites'.  Checking some building debris turned up about 20 Slow Worms including some particularly large individuals.

Bird sightings included Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Raven and Chough with Swallow, Sedge Warbler, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and Wren all still feeding young on the island.

Just after 10pm we went out to locate and ring Manx Shearwaters along a transect line, finishing at about 4.30am this morning.  One hundred and twelve birds were captured and processed, and with our hands adorned with cuts and scratches we finally turned in at 5am.

As such our day today was somewhat shorter, but a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull located amongst the loafing Lesser Black-backed Gulls was locally a good find and potentially only the second record for the island.  Sea-watching produced a couple of Bonxies, auks and passing Kittiwakes, with the 'snow-capped' island of Grassholm (covered in thousands of Gannets) glistening in the distance.

Regards

Neil M and Neil H

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Skokholm continued...


Hello

Still on Skokholm and yesterday afternoon we had a go at trying to trap passerines using fixed spring traps set on the ground.  We enjoyed some success and managed to catch and ring three Wheatears and a Rock Pipit.

Later that night we ganged up with others on the island to try and catch some Storm Petrels.  We started to catch them from about 11.15pm with a steady effort through the early hours culminating in just over 30 birds caught and ringed.  These miniature travellers of the waves are just wonderful little creatures with an ultra soft velvety texture to the feathers, spindly black flattened legs and entertaining vocabulary something akin to Sooty and Sweep arguing or laughing between themselves (my apologies if you are too young to know who Sooty and Sweep were/are)!

We finally found our beds at about 3am this morning and 'slept in' until 7am before committing to more diurnal birding activity!

Regards

Neil M and Neil H

 
Wheatear

 
Rock Pipit

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Quiet Times

Although I have visited both Blueberry and Harrington Airfield several times during the day I have not seen many birds, and indeed at one point it felt as if "they had all moved on".  My only bird at Harrington Airfield was a Red Kite, despite walking around for hours.
Blueberry area produced 6 Whinchats, Barn, Tawny + Little Owl, and an Osprey.
That's birding ! .....but tomorrow is a whole new day.

Regards Eleanor

Skokholm

Hello

Yesterday Neil H and I managed to travel by boat to the picturesque island of Skokholm off the Pembrokeshire coast.  Despite a keen north-westerly breeze the crossing was pleasant with birds en-route including close Gannet and Kittiwake.

Prior to our boat trip we trotted around the single track lanes near Marloes.  Birds included Common Buzzard, Raven, Wheatear and small numbers of warblers, and there were plenty of butterflies on the wing including plenty of Red Admirals, a few Painted Ladies and several Wall Browns.

On Skokholm we were greeted by a small 'herd' of Grey Seals and the clamour of hundreds of pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. 

After a welcome cup of tea and briefing, we set about exploring the island and sorting out our ringing regime.  Mummified Manx Shearwater corpses littered the paths, once victims of gull predation as they endeavoured to find their nesting burrows.  Over 40,000 pairs of Manx Shearwaters are estimated to breed on the island, each night running the gauntlet of the gulls as they come ashore.

A wander around the island in warm sunny weather provided views of Puffin (just a few left), Raven, Chough, Fulmar, Rock Pipit, Wheatear and Peregrine and there were hundreds and hundreds of Rabbits!

Overnight we wandered a transect route across the island seeking Manx Shearwaters.  As it became darker and the meteor shower overhead became even more vibrant and regular, Manx Shearwaters began emitting their bizarre song of gurgles and banshee hollering.  We began catching and ringing these fabulous tubenoses and over the process of about three and half hours Neil H and I managed to catch 42.  Like all sea-birds, they are strong with sharp claws and surprisingly sharp hooked beaks.  Our night-time adventure ceased at about 4am when it was time for a couple of hours kip and then up to do some passerine ringing.

This morning we caught a few small birds and then set a trap for large gulls.  This resulted in the capture of 7 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 3 Herring Gulls and their far-reaching and sharp rendering beaks!

New migrants seemed minimal but did include a couple of Green Sandpipers flying around, and a smart Slow Worm was greatly admired.  Warm conditions have resulted in large numbers of immigrant insects including droves of Red Admirals and supporting cast.

Regards

Neil M


 
Red Admiral

 
Wall Brown
 
 
Grey Seal

 
Small Copper

 
Black and ginger rabbit!

 
Lesser Black-backed Gull