30th. I delivered my elder daughter Ramona to her hall of residence in Clifton and saw 2 peregrines fly over Clifton Village.
20th-24th. We spent our Silver Wedding Anniversary celebrations at an old fisherman's cottage in Downalong, St Ives, where we've been taking holidays with many happy memories since the children were little. Here's a blast from the past!
The weather started off balmy and still, warm enough to read on the grass at the Island. Autumn arrived on the Sunday however, with persistent rain through 6 miles of cloud. Sighting of the weekend was Kate Winslet eating in the same restaurant, though I did see a few decent birds during the occasional seawatch. The seabird movement was very different from July/August, and now shearwaters were scarce. I saw one sooty shearwater (21st) a Balearic (24th) and fewer than 20 manx shearwaters in total. About 7 Mediterranean gulls passed by, and one adult was roosting at night in the harbour. The only skua was an Arctic skua on 21st, and I also saw 5 common scoter, about 10 Sandwich terns, an Arctic tern, a wheatear, and hundreds of swallows (21st) and about 20 meadow pipits (22nd) migrating. There was a strong passage of auks, most surprisingly including a black guillemot resting on the sea on 21st. A distant grey phalarope was at sea on 24th. Non-bird sightings included 2 bottlenose dolphins (21st), a grey seal (21st) and an ocean sunfish (24th). The photo below is of one of the tame turnstones on Smeaton's Pier.
10th-12th. A couple of days in Norfolk to catch up on work on on our bats in churches project. After visiting 7 churches we ended up at Cley, so I visited the reserve and saw a juvenile pectoral sandpiper, 3 curlew sandpiper, 2 spoonbill and a yellow-legged gull. At least 20 pink-footed geese flew in from the sea. I photographed a teal.
I then drove to Titchwell and missed the Baird's sandpiper by about an hour, after it was spooked by a hobby. I did see 11 spoonbill a hobby and a whimbrel. A goshawk flew over as it was getting dark. The ruff were nicely lit by the evening light.
I stopped off at Titchwell again on my trip home (12th), and the birds were almost the same as last night with a curlew sandpiper and 5 spotted redshank also present. I then drove past the road to Holme Dunes NNR and thought about the barred warbler that had been seen there. It hadn't been reported for a couple of days, but I thought I'd give it a shot anyway. Initially I saw a lesser whitethroat in the bushes where it had been seen, and then I heard a loud churring call that I was unfamiliar with. I accessed Xeno-Canto on my smartphone, downloaded the distinctive calls of a BARRED WARBLER, and hey presto that's what it was. The bird called about 6 times over 2 hours, at one point about 2m away from me, but never popped out of the vegetation. Others enjoyed good views over the subsequent days however, so it was worth phoning the report in to RBA.
9th. The good September birds continue, with a juvenile buff-breasted sandpiper at Goldcliff (also a spotted redshank, and big flocks of black-tailed godwits and knot).
On my way back I stopped to see the cattle egret at Northwick Wharf. I also saw 2 bar-tailed godwit, 2 knot, 2 wheatear and I heard 2 yellow wagtails.
8th. A great afternoon at Chew. First, I relocated the summer plumage red-necked grebe in Heron's Green Bay. The bird has extensive yellow on the bill, especially on the lower mandible, much more so than the Cheddar bird of 2008, although the Chew bird of November 2004 had just as much yellow. This has been suggested as a feature of the American race holboellii - see for example here (the article contains a familiar photograph!), but probably just represents natural variation in the European race.
A hobby fed over Heron's Green Pool, where I also saw a green sandpiper and a swimming grass snake. A white wagtail was on the causeway.
Then John Martin found a new female ferruginous duck in the Aythya flock.
6th. I took a day off and travelled with Arthur Goldsmith to Lodmoor in Weymouth. We watched the juvenile SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER for several hours, though it was asleep in the reeds much of the time. The bird is the second recorded in mainland Britain as many early records were no longer considered acceptable because they lacked detail of some of the diagnostic features. The Lodmoor bird was initially though to be a long-billed dowitcher, but it really does look very different, being quite rusty in colour with strong patterning, especially on the mantle, scapulars and importantly the tertials. The bird also has a dark crown that stands out at certain angles. The bird also arrived early in the autumn for a dowitcher. I'm not a great fan of dowitchers - I find them rather boring birds, but this individual is much more interesting than the long-billed birds I have seen. I took a few distant record shots in the heat haze. There's a nice review of identification features of dowitchers here, and some of the points that Lee and Birch make for the identification of short-billed dowitchers can be seen in the Lodmoor bird - a large 'loral angle', downward curvature of the bill one third of the distance from the tip, and the relatively steep forehead.
It was pleasant to be in the sunshine and watch other birds at the reserve, including marsh harrier, yellow wagtail, and a wheatear. My bogus bird this year has been ringed plover, and I eventually saw some, though after seeing the short-billed dowitcher!
Mediterranean gulls were present in a range of plumages. First, a colour-ringed juvenile
We had nice views of Sandwich terns
and here's a common snipe showing 7 tail feathers.
2nd. Chew Valley Lake late afternoon. The eclipse drake lesser scaup is still in Villice Bay. An eclipse male tufted duck with a nasal saddle sky blue 34 also present. This bird was was ringed at Marolles-Sur-Seine in France on 19th November 2007 and has been seen at Blagdon lake in 2008 and 2009 at least (photo here). A yellow-headed gull adult or near adult with head-streaking on Herriot's Pool. A big flock of moulting Aythya ducks, mainly males, in front of Stratford Hide . Despite careful looking, I couldn't find the male ferruginous duck.
1st. Spotted crake at Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve.