35 Birds I'd Like to See in 2012.

Bean Goose
Ruddy Shelduck
Red-breasted Goose
Velvet Scoter
Green-winged Teal
Black Grouse
White-tailed Eagle
Quail
Honey Buzzard
Rough-legged Buzzard
Stone Curlew
Great Shearwater
Jack Snipe (21st Jan.)
Common Crane (7th Apr.)
Caspian Gull
Glaucous Gull
Roseate Tern
Long-eared Owl
Tawny Owl
Hoopoe
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (26th Feb.)
Citrine Wagtail
Woodlark
Shore Lark (7th Apr.)
Water Pipit (29th Feb.)
Nightingale (6th May)
Icterine Warbler
Grasshopper Warbler
Crested Tit
Bearded Tit (19th Feb.)
Penduline Tit
Chough
Common / Mealy Redpoll
Red-backed Shrike
Bee-eater

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Sunday
Feb192012

Common Yellowthroat.

This evening I am pleased to be a birder. Such was the common sense and courtesy applied by (it seemed) all on this twitch I would even be pleased to be that poor Common Yellowthroat lost thousands of miles from home.

The collecting bucket appeared well-stocked, those who gave their time to assist the with organisation and directions were happy and helpful. It was great. Planning was in evidence. The Rhiwderin Community Centre car park was available for the day, as were two roads nearby. Permission of the landowner granted. The weather was great and birders were at ease - helpful to a man or woman. New arrivals were pointed at the right clumps of dead grass or brambles. I struggled with the location when I first arrived but three people came to my aid in an instant. Unprompted. I know that helpfulness and good humour aren't traits displayed by birders only when everything is going swimmingly, but my goodness it just goes to show that if the idiotic minority are somehow tempered by the well-behaved majority (peer-pressured into conforming) a mega-twitch like this can turn from a trial into a treat.

I arrived at 0830hrs - finding a space in the Community Centre car park. A short hop up the hill, contributing to the collection en route, and I found myself in one of the longest ranks of birders I think I've ever seen - all optics focused on a bramble hedge that began down by Cwm Cwddy Drive (right) and continued up past the big tree (left).

Line dancing.The bird itself was staying low in the undergrowth. I had read about the species habits and so was not surprised. I was however, surprised that it was staying so conveniently in one place on a perfectly clear and still day! I half expected it to be ranging all over the surrounding fields as visitors had been warned to prepare for. As it was, the only fieldcrafts required were patience and keeping a respectful distance. With those in evidence, so was the bird. In and out. Creeping up the base of the hedgerow towards me. Views were fleeting, but common enough and in the glorious morning light with the Sun behind us the yellow throat seemed to shine. On the whole, it reminded me of a Wren or Cetti's Warbler. Tail cocked, skulking - but quick about it. I didn't hear it call.

Photography was at best opportunistic. Shutters fired all along the line whenever the bird showed for long enough to locate it through a viewfinder, but the distance we all kept did not permit a 'money-shot'. Or at least, for a photographer of my ability it did not. I was only able to secure a few record shots, the best of which I present below.

Common Yellowthroat.My 250th British bird! Perhaps I am developing a happy habit of hitting upon crackers for these landmark numbers. My 200th was the Lesser Grey Shrike on St. Mary's.

People were streaming into the field - more in than out - so once I'd had several good looks and several more failed attempts at a good photograph I peeled away from the crowd and took my leave... not before spotting a gap in the trees (from a distance, of course) and snapping this... which I quite like.

"It's out."I was back on the road by 1000hrs, heading home... but indirectly. I had considered going for the Bonaparte's Gull in Cardiff, but honestly didn't fancy negotiating my way through the city streets to the riverside only to be confronted by several trillion Black-headed Gulls and no clue where to start. Not worth the time and effort. I headed to Newport Wetlands.

If I'd been to any other RSPB reserves in Wales I would claim Newport Wetlands was my favourite Welsh RSPB reserve, but since I haven't I'll just say I think it's pretty great. Happy memories. I saw my first Snipe there, learned to tell the difference between the call of the Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler there and have enjoyed some of my best ever views of my favourite bird - the Marsh Harrier.

It was a Marsh Harrier I'd hoped to see today. Unfortunately I did not, but I did see a bird I'd almost given up hope of ever seeing (yeah, just like the Ring Ouzel, Merlin and Jack Snipe!)... a Bearded Tit. (!!!!!) In the south-east corner of the reedbed I caught a good candidate darting across the top of the reeds and pulled my binoculars up to track it for a few seconds before it called and dipped out of view. Actually, it pinged. No doubt whatsoever about the ID. As I always say, when you finally do see a rare or bogey bird, you just know it; there's no convincing to be done. It was what it was.

Before heading back across the Severn and a shot at that long-staying Little Gull on the Avonmouth Square Pool, I stopped at Goldcliff Pools in the hopes of seeing one of the Glossy Ibis. A long shot, and rightly so. No sign. There was a fine winter plumaged Spotted Redshank though. A great bird and more than enough reason to check out the pools.

The Little Gull was not on the Square Pool - what of it is visible through the metal gate anyway.

My final stop was the Severn Beach / New Passage / Aust Warth area. A stroll along the shore from Severn Beach to New Passage (under the second Crossing) was uneventful. A group of 48 Redshank being the biggest surprise. I had hoped to come across a Water Pipit somewhere but did not. There were only the occasional calls of Rock Pipits. I really am going to have to get to grips with the Water Pipit wintering at Berkeley shore. And fast.

Aust Warth was a picture. The Sun was dropping behind the second Severn Crossing, lighting up the foreshore, the water and the Severn Bridge. A Peregrine was perched high up on one of the pylons, a female Merlin spent an hour preening on one of the upright logs near the shore and one Short-eared Owl made a flight up high before coming down hard on a prey item at about 1700hrs.

Merlin (honestly!).The second Severn Crossing (definitely).What to make of today, then? After several consecutive trips where I've ended up frustrated at the behaviour of others and / or my own poor planning and unrealistic expectations, this evening I am pleased with just about everyone. Myself because I managed to judge my time wisely, and with everyone else for restoring a good part of my faith in this hobby.

I hope Rhiwderin will go down as a real high point in the recent history of British twitching. I think many people hope that. I think they're delighted to have seen a twitch go so well. To see everyone get on. That the reputation of birders has been enhanced rather than degraded. Organisation, fun, results... these are mutual desires across our community. Let's keep it up.

 

P.S. Still no Little Egret this year!

Sunday
Feb122012

Smew.

Three individuals - including one drake - on Court Lake since yesterday. My second favourite duck. How could I resist?

Well I couldn't, and so I went on a tiny twitch down to Frampton. A cold and gloomy day. The lake was c.90% frozen over - the only open water surrounding the middle island.

Court Lake.The Smew spent almost all of their time behind the island, indeed only the drake actually showed from the shore overlooked by Frampton Court. This was fine by me. I only glimpsed the two redheads from a different angle as I walked back to the car. Otherwise one Grey Heron, two Goldeneye (one on Court Lake and one on the Sailing Lake), heaps of Shovelers, seven Little Grebes (three on Court Lake, four on the Sailing Lake), Gadwall (on both lakes, too), a couple of Great Crested Grebes, one Buzzard and two fighting Sparrowhawks (one male and one female) were as good as it got. The female Sparrowhawk spent a lot of time bathing on the far shore of Court Lake before the male showed up and the fighting began.

Smew (drake) (obviously).Goldeneye (drake) (obviously)

Wednesday
Feb082012

#'A4E

Harry Redknapp for England.

(sorry, Dad)

Sunday
Feb052012

Double Dip.

I had another crack at the Oldbury Power Station Twite this afternoon. The surrounds of Lagoon III, the maize field and any other fields I could get access to were scoured... unfortunately without a sniff. I'm probably done now - looking for these birds - as I don't think I could face trying again, walking all over that site, and not spotting them.

Plenty else, though... the most notable record being another Jack Snipe flushed as I walked towards the maize field. I got my binoculars up to it very quickly and was able to safely identify it in flight. When I saw my first ever Jack Snipe on the 21st January I wondered whether I would now encounter a few on the bounce. Goodness knows how many dank fields or pathways I've trudged across looking for birds over the years... never once flushing a Jack Snipe. Until today - not long after my first.

No Yellowhammer to be seen, but big groups of Reed Bunting and Chaffinch within which were a few Linnet, Bullfinch, Dunnock and Goldfinch. The fields were crawling with Pied Wagtails. Mixed Fieldfare and Redwing flocks patrolled the trees. One Skylark. A flock of 20 Stock Doves. On the estuary 4 Redshank with over 350 Dunlin, 5 Oystercatchers and c.10 Curlew. Teal, Wigeon and Mallard also.

This morning a male Blackcap visited our garden feeders, and on the way back from Oldbury - perched in a tree above the motorway - was a female Kestrel.

112 Dunlin in this image, but there were at least treble that number viewable from the Severn Way.

Sunday
Jan292012

Farmoor.

Dead calm. The reservoirs were blanketed in fog this morning. Occasionally one could see the other side, but generally even the middle was out of reach. The Grey Phalarope was nowhere to be seen. I expect it was present, but expect also that it would've taken quite a stoke of luck to pick it out when even a bird the size of a Cormorant disappeared within the space of a hundred yards. I walked the edge of F2 (noting a small group of Bullfinch and two Little Grebes), but concentrated on the north-east corner where it was reported yesterday. Nothing doing.

The Great Northern Diver was still loitering at the southern end of F2. As if to make up for the missing Phalarope, it came obligingly close to the edge - diving only once. Had it been in the middle I would not have seen it.

It was nice to have a chance to study it at relatively close range and in perfectly still conditions. Usually one sees Divers out at sea, and curses their habit of disappearing below the surface in the time it takes to get your scope onto them.

Great Northern Diver. A wide load.At the time I didn't think there would be any merit in taking photographs through the murk, but these two have turned out okay. It would've been nice to see the bird in sunlight, but today the place had an ethereal quality quality to it that was actually worth seeing. It seemed as if everything was simply floating in space and the camera has captured that I think. There was often no line to be drawn between the water, the fog and the cloud. In the middle of the causeway it was as if you were waiting in limbo. For a Phalarope.

Middle of nowhere.I had to be back in Gloucester by early afternoon so I didn't have the luxury of simply hanging around.

My next stop was Rushy Common - hoping to spot the Temminck's Stint that had been present for several days. Except yesterday. I couldn't find it (kinda hoping it's gone now) but did add Common Sandpiper, Red-crested Pochard and Yellow-legged Gull to my year list. Still foggy, but had the Stint showed it would've been visible. Whilst watching the gull another birder confirmed the Dipper was still present this morning at The New Mill. I always find Dippers hard birds to get on my lists, so off I went.

Much reduced fog content here, so just look downstream.

The Dipper was feeding at the far end.Dipper.A poor photograph, but it was taken in poor light and at some distance. There was no easy way to get a closer view. I chatted to (what I presumed to be) the caretaker of the Mill. He said it often used the water much nearer to the buildings. Not today though. Still, I don't know about you but heading into the working week I think Dipper is a far more satisfactory bird to have as your most recent year tick than Mandarin Duck.

I was told that this morning Kingfisher and Water Rail were both seen on the same stretch of water. I didn't see them myself (didn't stay long enough to be honest), but it's good to know they're there if I don't stumble across them later in the year.

The Dipper was year tick 109. On this day last year I was on 77, but more importantly on this day in 2010 (the most recent 'On Year' or 'Scilly Year') I was on 76. That's an advance of 33 species. At this point I am very optimistic of beating my 2010 (and current record) total of 213. Maybe even whilst on the islands.

I haven't even seen Blackcap, Kestrel or Little Egret yet.