Sunday, 28 April 2013

A pale substitute....pallid, one might say

A fair bit to report since our previous blog of last weekend including a highlight in the form of an osprey that drifted up the valley last Sunday, interrupting our breakfast in a scramble for bins and camera....number 80 on the garden list. With the trickle of blocked migrants now becoming a steady stream, this week has seen us catch up with swifts (Thurs 25th), wood warbler (Tues 23rd), common whitethroat (Fri 26th),
cuckoo (Sat 27th) and today, a lesser whitethroat that I inadvertantly flushed from the side of a track - and although not new for the year, we did have a female pied flycatcher in the garden on Friday. Another interesting garden regular this week have been a pair of yellowhammers, which have graced us with numerous visits to forage under the feeders. From our limited observations (work does get in the way!) through the kitchen window, mid afternoon seems to be the prime time for them, and first the male comes in, feeds, heads off, and then the female comes in and does likewise - never have they been observed coming in together.

(taken by Dave)
Another newby for the garden was this cheeky hedgehog, that seems to have cottoned onto the fact we are putting out food for the badgers and nicks in early to grab a few bits for himself (or herself) before the brock boys arrive.

We spent Thursday night down in Pembrokeshire, stopping at Manorbier and so spent some time walking along the stunning coast that this county has to offer. Not dissimilar to my old home patch of The Lizard in Cornwall, with craggy shoreline, crashing blue waves and big surf, it felt good to spend some time out and about. This is my way of putting a brave face on the fact we had booked to spend the night on Skomer Island, but they had rung the day before and cancelled due to the unfavourable conditions for landing the boat, meaning we missed out on our chance of close up photos of the seabirds, the nightly arrival of manxies, and to cap it all, the juv pallid harrier was still around and showed really well on the day we were supposed to be there. Ho-hum. Still, we did get some good views of the auks and fulmars at Stackpole Head to make up for it. Sort of.


One consolation was breaking the journey at Teifi marshes, where we were treated to great views of singing cettis warblers (a tick for Steffi) amongst the numerous sedge warblers.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Lords of the Flies

Well, what a cracking 48 hours that was! The last two days have been just about the best couple of days I've had in a long time when it comes to birding, and thats without even seeing a new 'tick'. It started yesterday around 10am when I decided to head over to Ynys-hir for a couple of hours prior to picking Steffi up in Aber. Taking the path through to the woodland hide, I stopped to listen out for any singing newly arrived migrants, and heard just above me the calls of a lesser spotted woodpecker - I quickly latched onto it and was delighted to watch a female frantically feeding in the trees around me for at least 4 minutes, before she headed off. Feeling chuffed as billy-o, I carried on my way, soon hearing, then getting great views, of both male and female pied flycatchers. The woods were full of redstarts,willow warblers and chiffchaffs, and it really felt good to be out in the warmth and sunshine of a proper spring day (finally). Making my way onto the boardwalk that cuts across the marsh, next up was a displaying tree pipit, and this was followed by my inadvertantly flushing a small dark bird that dropped a few feet away into some scrub - getting my bins focused on it revealed a grasshopper warbler, looking almost as surprised as myself. Prising myself away to go and get Steffi, once she'd heard about my previous few hours, we decided to head back to Ynys-hir, taking a small detour to check the sea at the turn car park. Within seconds of arriving, right in front of us on the track was a belting male snow bunting, which showed so well that Steffi was beside herself with grief that she didnt have her camera. Also on show was a whimbrel, again very photographable......
Back at Ynys-hir we cleaned up on the migrants, with only the lesser spot and gropper refusing to play ball, and adding sedge warbler and arctic tern to our year lists. Just as exciting was the dicovery of a sunbathing grassnake on the bank by the track from the woods to the boadwalk.
Today, combining work and pleasure, we spent the day in the Elan valley, where we managed to boost the 2013 tally with a lovely whinchat that Steffi found, along with good views of many redstarts, pied flys, wheatears, common sand, dipper, grey wagtails, peregine, sparrowhawk, willows and chiffs, reed buntings, kites, buzzards and others. Coming up next, a fine selection of photos from today, when Steffi did have her camera.....

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

polls apart

Spring has finally dragged itself kicking and screaming into mid Wales; though looking out the window as I write at the rain and howling wind, maybe its decided to hive off again. Nevertheless, some good 'year ticks' have cropped up this week, including whimbrel at Borth and a common sandpiper at the Leri. In the garden weve had a cracking male redstart, willow warbler and chiffchaff - yesterday was particularly noteworthy, with chiffchaffs seemingly in every bush and shrub around 4pm. Swallows, house martin and sand martin are now regulars down by the river, and today 3 male & 1 female blackcaps appeared together in the ash tree. Also in the garden, and about time too, we had our first ever redpolls, at least 3, and now that they've discovered our niger feeder seem determined to stay put and squabble over the pickings with the resident siskins and goldfinches.

On my rounds with work this week I've had great views of green woodpeckers, lots of wheatears, stock doves and a handsome stoat amongst the usual suspects, and great clumps of frog spawn in every pond and puddle I've come across. Our local pond is full of adult frogs and its lovely to sit there awhile and listen to them call.
On an interesting note, Steffi was mesmerised by a chiffchaff last night as it appeared to be fly-catching around the postbox light after 10pm - she could have reached out and grabbed it had she been so inclined, which, thankfully, she wasnt. On her regular commute to Aber this week Steffi has also had good views of the returning male osprey at the nest site by the Dyfi junction.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Return of the Manx

An afternoon out took us to Borth in the hope to catch up with some spring migrants. Our hopes were rewarded but with an exciting show of seabirds instead of the expected passerines. Manx shearwater were gliding effortlessly up and down along the returning tide, accompanied by a couple of fishing gannets. Auks (probably both razorbill and guillemot, we didn't have the scope to confirm) were bobbing up and down with the gentle waves and numerous (20+) great crested grebe had gathered together close in to shore. The long-staying long-tailed duck fished very close in right behind the surf and revealed a very different plumage to what we saw last time. Right behind it we spotted a red throated diver which quickly took off for a short flight (photo montage below). Just as we were heading off, three sandwich tern appeared and filled the air with their distinctive calls and a peregrine approached us from out at sea. Inland we had a flock of 300+ golden plover, about a dozen wheatear, a sparrowhawk, buzzard, red kite, a female reed bunting and three pair of stonechat.

This morning at home our breakfast was interrupted by a loud bang coming from the front window. Turned out a male blackbird had flown into it and completely stunned itself. We quickly put a towel into a shoe box and offered the bird a save place for recovery. Meanwhile I went into the garden and dug out three earth worms which we placed on the patio for him once he was strong enough to be released from our care. Unfortunately, he was still a bit dozed then and watched helplessly as another male blackbird came in and grabbed his snack. Nonetheless, a few minutes later our bird was able to fly across the garden into the rhododendron. Also, this morning whilst pottering about in the gardening I woke up both a hibernating toad and palmate newt. They were quickly relocated and hopefully went back into hibernation. Redwing and fieldfare still accompany us in large numbers at home and out in the field.

Monday, 8 April 2013


As promised, badger photos. We sat by the open window for over an hour, and of course they did arrive, but later than the previous nights. Still, Steffi managed a few shots with the flash, which didnt bother them at all.

The female great spot has taken to landing on a particular tree stump we salvaged from the river before leaping up to the peanut feeder, and this allowed Steffi to get some cracking close-ups of this beauty.
Another bonus from today came in the shape of garden tick number 78, when a much longed for male wheatear was seen feeding up by the railway crossing gate. Still plenty of fieldfares and redwings in the meadow, along with the regular mistle thrushes, whose numbers are up to the mid twenties.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

An Easterly Easter

The Easter weekend was spent up north visiting friends and family, with a little bit of birding thrown in for good measure, making sure we were wrapped up against the bitter wind. A nostalgic morning out at one of our old stomping grounds, RSPB Leighton Moss, yielded a few year ticks, such as marsh tit, marsh harrier, avocet and spotted redshank, alongside good views of feeding snipe, 9 duck species and black tailed godwits.


Later on the same day we headed off to my brothers local patch, Aldcliffe marsh, and had 3 little ringed plover and our first wheatear and chiffchaff of the year. A walk down the river Wenning with my parents dog had 60+ golden plover, numerous wigeon, ringed plover and reed buntings.

Back home in Wales, an afternoon spent at Broadwater gave up 9 sandwich terns, 26 ringed plover, a single grey plover and lapwing, blackwits, redshank and curlew.

Still plenty of fieldfares around in the meadow in front of the house, along with a smattering of redwing, and our peanut butter loving badger population has risen to two individuals. As today has been warm and sunny, without that biting easterly, tonight could be a good night to sit with the window open and try to get a shot of them.
Our local dippers were busy nest building today, with mixed results. One struggled to get up into the site, only to drop its beakful of material when it finally did so. However, it carried on with the tenacity of that spider in the story of Robert the Bruce.