Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Garganey & Glow Worms

Just to let people know that the glorious juv Turnstone ( see Sue Smith's Bicycle Birder on the Axe blog ) was not a fluke, I've since spotted a Garganey briefly on BHM and a Glow Worm whilst cycling home in the dark last night. I'm on a roll!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Stringer's Shearwaters

The 20th August 2016 will remain a special date for Seaton seawatchers for many years to come. Not only were several Cory's Shearwaters seen between 8am and 9:30am but this was followed by a remarkable midday and evening passage of Stringer's Shearwater Calonectris Stringerensis. Amazingly, both 'morphs' of Stringer's were passing Seaton on a regular basis. Most of them were the larger, Gannet-sized variant Calonectris Stringerensis Bassana of which 1,752 were counted. Smaller in numbers and smaller in size was the Fulmar-sized Calonectris Stringerensis Glacialis of which a mere 114 were seen. I unfortunately failed to see any Cory's but the vast number of Stringer's was a joy to see. The species is named after legendary Westcountry ornithologist Mr. I.B.Stringer who also gave us the diminutive morph of Goshawk Accipiter Stringerensis, which has since been re-classified as 'just a Sparrowhawk'. Here's to you, Mr. Stringer!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Little Owls

Little Owl, Lesvos, April 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Little Owl, Lesvos, April 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Little Owl, Lesvos, April 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
I've been enjoying 3 species of owl around Colyton recently. I had a Barn Owl fly in front of me cycling along Cownhayne Lane the other night; plus a pair of silhouetted Tawnies whilst walking in the dark as one does. The Little Owls have been about too, although difficult to photograph. So I'm using them as an excuse to post these previously unseen pics from last year's Greek birdfest!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Black Vultures

Black Vulture, Monfrague, May '16 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Black Vulture, Monfrague, May '16 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Oh No! It's seen us! Run for your lives...but seriously, why do they call them Cinereous Vultures these days? Black Vulture is much more helpful and a much better name.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Griffon Flight Shots

Griffon Vulture, Spain, May '16 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Griffon Vulture, Spain, May '16 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Sometimes the Vultures came so close that I ought to have reduced the magnification a bit. Better image quality would have been the result - but I find these wing-clipping frame-fillers quite amusing at times. They're just so monstrous it's funny, especially to a British birder that doesn't get to see them very often...

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Spanish Imperial Eagles

Spanish Imperial Eagle, Extremadura, May '16 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Spanish Imperial Eagle, Extremadura, May '16 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Spanish Imperial Eagle & Griffon Vulture, Extremadura, May '16 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Monfrague was also where I photographed S.I.Eagles. I saw them out on the plains too - on a rainy day I watched 2 adults lift off and give a display of synchronised flying after seeing off a Black Kite which tried to mob one of them. Majestic stuff. This immature bird in Monfrague was easier to photograph as it kept coming back to spar with the Griffons and called loudly as it approached. Its tail was incomplete but it was still a magnificent sight. But look how massive those Vultures are!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Colour-ringed Dunlin

A colour-ringed Dunlin which was on BHM on 29th July was passed to Ian McLean who tells me that the bird was ringed at Cangas in Spain on 31st March 2014. This kind of thing is interesting to people like us. Just thought I'd mention it!

Least Worst Options

I've not posted much local news lately but now I feel compelled to! At 6pm last evening I thought 'Shall I cycle to BHM for high tide or not?' The inclement weather might have put me off but it stopped raining long enough for a dash down on the old 2-wheeler. I took a look from the screen at the North end and saw a stint species with a Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper. Excellent, the first stint of the Autumn. However, it didn't look like any Little Stint I've seen on BHM before, being extremely dark-looking in the evening murk. It flew and I lost it so pressed on to Island Hide. I passed Tim White on the way and told him I'd seen a stint species and would try to relocate it. From the hide I quickly picked it up again and now, in my scope, it seemed to have pale legs. At this point I thought to myself that it looked like a Least Sandpiper, having seen them before in Britain and also in Canada. This prompted me to phone (not text as I wanted to stay on the bird!) Phil Abbot & Ian McLean as past experience has shown me that these 2 are most likely to shoot down and join me if I'm on anything interesting at that time of day. Seeing them march past him no doubt gave TW a clue that we were on this stint and he joined us. I was now able to text Steve Waite as the others could follow the bird and even photograph it as I had no camera with me. Some doubts were expressed as to whether the bird actually had pale legs but I protested that if they had looked pale to me in such terrible light they must be - surely! Once we agreed that the bird had pale legs we only had 3 species to sort out. Temminck's was quickly eliminated as the bird had 'tramlines' i.e. a white V on its back. Plus it flew and showed no white outer tail-feathers. This left Least Sandpiper and Long-toed Stint, which were once considered to be conspecific. The difference is that LTS has not just long toes but a long tibia i.e. long legs, and this bird had short legs and was very compact overall, showing no sign of a long neck either. The fact that its supercilia met the base of its bill was not easy to see in the dark but became more apparent this morning in better light. Its split supercilium is more a feature of LTS but is OK for Least (although it bothered me for a while cycling home!). So, although I would have liked the bird to be a LTS (as I've never seen one!) I was forced to accept the Least option and concede that this was a Calidris Minutilla. Ian Mc also noticed that the bird had dark ear-coverts which is a feature of Least so a team effort with the i.d. all round. Back home last night, I read in my Shorebirds books that adult Leasts migrate from mid-July, which means that 2nd August is a good date for one too, whereas it's extremely unlikely for a LTS. So we'll have to find one of those in another month or so. In the meantime, enjoy the best 'peep' we've had yet on BHM, as it's showing well in better light today. You're welcome!