Thursday, 28 February 2013

Nifty Shades of Grey

With Steffi having a day off, and good weather forecast, we decided to make a day of it and head inland to the moors around Coed Llandegla forest. The main reason was to get Steffi a tick in the shape of a black grouse, and hopefully clean up on some other moorland species. Arriving at the puzzlingly titled Worlds End, we parked up and took a stroll along the road, scanning the moors either side. All was quiet, except for a lone skylark, and after an hour or two so our initial optimism started to fade. We took a track across some land and I stopped to scan the hillside opposite, picking up a female black grouse - unfortunately Steffi had walked on and by the time I got her attention and she made it back to point where she could view the bird, it had crept into deep cover. We hung around but to no avail. Deciding to take another track, we pushed on further into the moor, flushing a male red grouse along the way. Suddenly Steffi picked up a movement by some scattered conifers and uttered those lovely words - 'is that a great grey shrike?' Sure enough, sat atop a tree, looking resplendent in the sunshine was a gorgeous butcher bird. Luckily she managed to grab some shots as it flitted from tree top to tree top, all the while heading away from us, finally vanishing from view as it headed east down the valley.

Having had our fair share of luck, we figured we could head over to Coed Llandegla, grab some lunch and have a stroll round the trees to see if we could add some woodland birds to the days list. As it turned out, the denizens of the forest were playing hard to get, but at the view point on the forest edge, which overlooks another chunk of moorland, there, in a distant clearing amongst the heather, was a very relaxed, feeding male black grouse. Even at distance, that classic shape, bright white undertail, long tail feathers and glossy blue/black colour made it stand out. We watched it for 20 minutes before it ambled off into cover; happy with our days work we too ambled home, doing the obligatory call in at a farm shop, something Steffi finds impossible not to stop at to purchase very tasty, but expensive, cheeses.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Train Ticking

The commute by train from Mach to Aber and back keeps getting better and better. Past "train ticks" include short-eared owl, green sandpiper and barnacle geese. And this week I spotted a barn owl on two seperate occasions hunting over the fields near the Leri at dusk; as well as a beautiful ring-tail hen harrier looking stunning in the morning sunshine quartering the fields in the same area.
Other than that very little birding took place this week. But yesterday we managed to get out briefly in an attempt to photograph the long-staying water pipit at Borth. The bird was showing well around the pools but unfortunately was very flightly due to the presence of weekend day trippers, dog walkers and surfers. I managed a couple of ok shots of the bird (pic 1 and 2) along with its usual companions meadow pipit, pied wagtail and skylark. Also present was a male stonechat and a lonesome ringed plover whilst a mixed flock of golden plover and lapwing passed overhead. Out in the bay the usual common scoter and g c grebe were far out with the receding tide.
Both dippers were feeding together on Tuesday up river from the nestsite but today none were present during my brief spell down there; however, a male grey wagtail and a treecreeper cheered me up.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Par for the Cors

A few days to catch up on, starting with Friday. Having a few hours to kill, I headed off to Borth where a water pipit had been reported during the last few days. Arriving at the turn car park, I set up the scope to scan the sea but little was on show, just a few rafts of common scoter and some g c grebes. Giving up on that, I wandered over to the briney pools at the northern end of the car park thinking that would be a good place for the pipit, and sure enough the second bird in my bins was just the thing I was looking for. With both meadow and rock pipits also in attendance it gave me a good opportunity to compare and contrast. After getting an eyeful, I strolled down the prom to grab a pasty for lunch, but was waylaid by a local birder who let me know the long staying male long tailed duck was showing well just opposite the train station. And so it was. As Steffi was in Aberystwyth, and due to get the train home back to Mach soon, I called and filled her in on the situation, so she could alight at Borth, see the birds and get a lift home. A win, win situation.
On Saturday, Steffi decided to check up on our local dippers, and so off we trundled to the stretch of river by our place where we regularly get them. Once we located them, I had to head off into town and left her camped out behind a tree with the camera set up. I took the long way into town, along the river Dyfi, and had little to report, except another dipper, grey wagtail and great views of goldcrest. Meanwhile, Steffi had spent a while dipper watching and had seen them gathering nesting material and, after careful observation, located the nest site. It is above a steep and slippery slate rock which makes it so inacessible that even the dippers struggle to get in which is good news in terms of human disturbance and predation. We shall keep an eye on the progress and report back. At the same time Steffi also observed a pair of grey wagtail feeding together.

Today we decided to head out to Cors Caron, a raised peat bog about an hours drive south. Despite being bitterly cold when we arrived, it soon warmed up and the sun shone down upon this weirdly beautiful landscape for the rest of the day. Plenty of buzzards and kites on show, but unfortunately no harriers. However, the appearance of our local celebrity golden eagle and a displaying goshawk made up for it. Lots of reed buntings, meadow pipits, linnets and singing skylark, plus good views of a host of common woodland birds kept us entertained between the views of raptors soaring around in the bright sunshine. A good day.
Back at the ranch, the heronry across the river is building up nicely (unless you happen to be a frog or vole) and the tawny owls are getting VERY vocal. Siskin numbers building up on the niger feeders, at least 8.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Purple Posers

After the seemingly endless days of gloomy grey sky and bitter cold, it was such a relief to get out on Saturday and experience warmth and sunshine. First port of call was Clarach, where little gulls had been spotted the previous days. Naturally, there was nothing there. Well, I say nothing, of course there was the obligatory herring and black headed gulls, plus oystercatchers and a distant fly by red throated diver, along with a vocal rock pipit. Heading to South beach, we picked up 3 gorgeous purple sandpipers 'sunbathing' on the rocks only about 10 feet from us; secure in the knowledge that the metal railings between us and them prevented us getting any closer they didnt mind Steffi spending 20 minutes pointing a camera at them. Just as we decided to leave, a little gull passed by overhead and proceeded to feed phalarope like on the water right in front of us.

Next stop, the Leri, where we picked up a cracking male eider in the channel by the boat yard. Aside from a few curlew, redshank and shelduck all was quiet here, though a merlin hunting low over the fields was a bonus, so we headed over to the point, where it was even quieter. Good numbers of  goldeneyeshag and a few linnets on the tideline were about all that was on offer - although our day was brightened up considerably by the tool in the flash car who got himself stuck in the sands whilst trying to impress his girlfriend - we left smugly in our 4x4 laughing fit to burst.
At the Ynslas turn car park we had, as usual, good numbers of common scoter, a few red throated divers and great crested grebes.

Good news concerning our presumed willow tit - it is definitely a willow, confirmed by Dr Richard Broughton who checked our pics and description and gave us the thumbs up. Here is a photo from its most recent visit.