Mid November and a week in North Devon, a weeks holiday and a few birding highlights.

Velator and Crow Point.

The area around the village of Braunton has some really good spots for bird watching, as always I stopped at the river Caen weir to look on the river rocks for a bobbing Dipper. As per my last visit I was not disappointed as one was busy perhaps searching for molluscs and crustaceans.

Onwards towards the toll road that goes to Crow Point gave excellent views of a Little Egret fishing in the margins. The fields were full of Lapwing, Golden Plover and thousands of Starling. There was also over 60 Curlew and 35 Tree Sparrow. On quite a few times a preying Sparrowhawk was seen hunting through all of the above.

Thrushes were visible with Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush and Blackbird all seen either on the ground or in the bushes and trees.

In between the showers a Barn Owl was quartering an overgrown field which it shared with a Grey Heron. I don't think the Heron was happy that there was another predator on his patch! While watching the Barn Owl a Water Rail was heard, this is my first for the area and a good tick for my Devon list.

Record of Barn Owl

Record 2 of Barn Owl
Northam Burrows near Appledore.

One of the best places in the area for waders at close quarters, once I knew the time of high tide it was off to see what was around and feeding as the tide receded.

Birds of note were Brent Geese, Shelduck, Grey Plover, Ring Plover, Golden Plover, Turnstone, Redshank, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Oystercatcher, Wigeon and Dunlin.

Little Egret in between the rain showers
Also seen here amongst the bushes and rocks were Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail and many Linnet.

RSPB Isley Marsh and Yelland Quay.

Here is also a good place to watch birds with different habitats, meadow, copse, mud flats, sand dunes a pond and a sandy beach.

Notables were Shelduck, Teal, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and Curlew. all the usual common birds were seen and included Goldcrest.

I now look forward the another holiday during the festive break which will start my 2016 bird list off with quite a few great birds.
7th of November 2015 - WWT Brandon Marsh visit.

Arriving just after lunch, the weather played a great part in my planned routes around the reserve as high winds and torrential rain ensured that most of the birding was done from the hides! The overall bird count was low only 38 species, however it was not surprising.

First bird of note was a Kingfisher always a joy to see, followed by a Little Egret working its way around East Marsh Pool.

The highlight of the afternoon was my first sighting this Autumn of a Bittern over the Newlands reed beds. Looking back through my journal, this is now the earliest date for seeing a Bittern on the reserve. Lets hope it stays for the winter.

Poor record shot of a Bittern over Newlands from 2013 could this be the one I saw?

As the light began to fade a great many Starlings started a murmuration over Newlands I estimated around 4000. As the birds made superb shapes in the sky I watched a male and female Sparrowhawk attack them. These two were soon seen off by a Carrion Crow and not long after that the Starlings were soon dropping down in to the reeds for the night.

An enjoyable afternoon despite the terrible weather that was made better by seeing the Bittern.

Other birds seen were as follows.

Greylag and Canada goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black Headed, Lesser Black Backed, Common and Herring Gull, Lapwing, Feral and Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, Coal, Blue and Great Tit, Cetti's Warbler, Wren, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare and Goldfinch.
 
17th - 18th of October 2015.

MARINElife survey Liverpool to Belfast.

As I arrived at the Birkenhead Stena Line terminal for our survey to Belfast, I met up with fellow surveyor Emma, whom I've surveyed with before. We checked in and were soon transported to the quayside to board the Stena Mersey Ferry. Upon checking in at the quest services desk we were allowcated our cabins. After dropping off our bags and enjoying a quick coffee we were escorted to the bridge and introduced to Captain Neil and his crew who made us feel very welcome.  With an early departure, the Stena Mersey left her berth and we began our survey.


Travelling into the mouth of the Mersey we passed the exposed sandbanks which had numerous Oystercatcher and Cormorant sitting at the water's edge, as well as some Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull feeding around a dredger.  We also observed a large group of Sanderling flying swiftly across the bow.

After passing the breakwater we moved further out into Liverpool Bay where we found a sea state of 3, good visibility, scattered sunshine and a few Gannet sweeping across the waves.  It was not long before the first cetacean sighting was made, a single Harbour Porpoise making a brief appearance ahead of the ship.


Whilst we were taking an effort reading, Captain Neil informed us that the ship would be taking the north route to Belfast, therefore keeping parts of the north-west coast of England visible. We had not expected to see Blackpool Tower and the mighty Big One rollercoaster in our binoculars!

As the ship continued its journey visibility improved to 20km and the eastside of the Isle of Man could be seen in the distance, and with this it brought the second mammal sighting of the day. Here, a group of six Common Dolphin charged through the waves and fed underneath a number of circling and diving Gannet 500 metres off the starboard side.

Reaching the Mull of Galloway, the southernmost point of Scotland and an area known for whales and dolphins, we were hopeful of another sighting and we were not to be disappointed!  We were enjoying views of the beautiful coastline now basking in the afternoon sun when three Common Dolphin surfaced 300 metres ahead of the starboard bow. We were able to observe the animals leaping several times as they travelled towards the headland. During this time a Great Skua made a pass in front of the bridge and many rafting Guillemot were seen.

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse
 As we headed towards Belfast Lough a solitary Harbour Porpoise surfaced several times as it moved away from the port side, and just as we thought that was our final sighting of the day we saw lots of Gannets diving.  Amongst this frenzy were eight Harbour Porpoise creating lots of white water as they surfaced to chase their prey.

As the light was quickly fading, we decided to end our survey; so we thanked the crew for their hospitality and left the bridge feeling very happy after a successful trip.

The days cetacean sightings were 9 Common Dolphin and 10 Harbour Porpoise.

Bird sightings were, Gannet, Cormorant, Brent Goose, Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Great Skua, Great Black Backed, Black Headed, Lesser Black Backed and Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Razorbill.

 

Coventry and Warwickshire local RSPB Trip – RSPB Titchwell 27th of September 2015.

The first trip of the new season was to RSPB Titchwell reserve that offers fresh water and saltwater lakes plus reed beds, open marshland and the sea known as the “Wash”.

The Wash is the square-mouthed bay and estuary on the northwest margin of East Anglia on the east coast of England, where Norfolk meets Lincolnshire. It is among the largest estuaries in the United Kingdom and is fed by the Rivers Witham, Welland, Nene and Great Ouse.
 
Arriving in glorious sunshine the group soon went their separate ways; I went towards the beach to carry out a sea watch to look for both birds and cetaceans. As usual Redshanks were a plenty.


 
The sea state was a 2, with slight wind waves, here I saw Gannet, Brent Geese, Pink Footed Geese, Great Crested Grebe, Common Scoter, Redshank, Turnstone, Sanderling, Dunlin, Knot, Little Egret, Herring Gull, Black Headed Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Common Gull, Oystercatcher and Cormorant.

After a considerable time on the beach I made my way back inland towards the hides where the sightings list increased to include notables such as Marsh Harrier, Avocet and Curlew Sandpiper.

Other birds seen were, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Gadwall, Widgeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Tufted Duck, Common Scoter, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Snipe, Woodpigeon, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Swallow, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Cetti's Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Spotted Flycatcher, Starling, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch and Linnet.
Birding and Wildlife weekend - 17th to 20th of September 2015.

What has now turned out to be an annual event my mate Gary and I made our way early on Thursday morning to North Devon for four days of birds, beer and wildlife.

Our first location was the old station area at Torrington where the possibility of Dipper made it a good place to start our weekend list. Within a few minutes "Hawkeye Hobbs" had our first Dipper of the weekend. Also of note were four Kingfishers, a pair of Grey Wagtails and two Raven. A short walk along the Tarka trail gave us the usual common birds and many butterflies before we headed off to Bideford to check in at the Royal Hotel.

Singing Robin

The afternoon was spent exploring the RSPB Isley Marsh area, here an Osprey was seen perched on a post with its catch of mullet. A short walk towards the Welland Quay revealed a single Spoonbill feeding in the company of a Little Egret. Looking towards the banks of exposed kelp revealed a Peregrine that sat there of over an hour. Also seen were Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Sanderling, Black Tailed Godwit, Curlew, Whimbrel and the usual estuary birds. Over the many years that I have visited this reserve there has always been large numbers of Shelduck, looking back at my journal shows that these have not been seen here since early in 2014!

Crow Point on the Taw Estuary

Friday the 18th of September 2015.

Having checked the local tide times our first destination of the day was Northam Burrows in Appledore. Arriving at high tide there were hundreds of birds very close to the rocks. Birds of note were Ring Plover, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Bar Tailed and Black Tailed Godwit, Peregrine, Kestrel, Turnstone, Stonechat and many Swallows.


Turnstone

After a very enjoyable morning we made our way to Braunton which is on the other side of the estuary. The toll road to Crow Point always gives up a few birds of prey and today was no different to other vists. Peregrine, Kestrel, Buzzard, Osprey and Marsh Harrier were all seen here. Also of note were Kingfisher, Wheatear and Greenshank.

Wheatear

Saturday the 19th of September 2015.

Today was my last trip of the year to Lundy Island as Wildlife Officer for MARINElife. The trip started with collecting my ticket from the Bideford Landmark office, upon boarding MS Oldenburg I met up with Charles and Nick, fellow surveyors who were on board for this month’s Lundy survey. The ship left the quay in warm sunshine and looking across the estuary the sight of low white mist made for an impressive view.



As the Oldenburg navigated its way past Northam Burrows, great numbers of wading birds were observed, Dunlin, Curlew, Black Tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and Ring Plover. Starting my tour around the upper and lower decks I introduced myself to some of the passengers and as usual I had numerous conversations with many people. One in particular was with two gentlemen from Vermont in the USA who were over from the U.S. Landmark Trust. 
Leaving the estuary behind I soon had the opportunity to point out four Common Dolphin which had most of the passengers on the starboard side looking out to see them breaching, not too long after the Dolphins, we also had sight of two Porpoise. Birds were very scarce and it was not until we were within a few miles of Lundy the bird numbers increased. Gannet, Shag and Kittiwake were seen and as the ship came alongside the jetty a Peregrine Falcon was circling the cliff tops.

Upon disembarking the Oldenburg a great many of the passengers stopped on the jetty to watch the Grey Seals that are often swimming around Rat Island. Following this I began to make their way up to the higher levels. Whilst walking along the central track I was surprised to find a Dunlin feeding in and around a huge puddle. This little bird seemed very tame and didn’t seem to mind me stopping to take a few photos!

Dunlin

 
Spotted Flycatcher
 
The return journey aboard the Oldenburg gave further sightings of more Common Dolphin and Porpoise and as before, many of the passengers were delighted to see these graceful animals.



Common Dolphins

The crossing back to Bideford was a calm affair and as we approached the estuary the sun was going down behind the ships stern, by the time we returned to the quay it was dark. Before leaving the ship, I thanked Jerry and the crew for supporting MARINElife and I look forward to more trips in 2016.

Sunday the 20th of September 2015.

Following a hearty breakfast in our hotel we set off for Exeter and a morning at RSPB Bowling Green Marsh. As we arrived the re was a high which meant the reserve was full of waders. Birds of note seen were Spoonbill, Shelduck, Black Tailed Godwit, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Snipe, Peregrine, Little Egret, Pintail, Avocet and Kingfisher. Hundreds of Wigeon filled the area in front of the hide and amongst them were a few Shoveler and Teal.

As the tide started to turn we checked out the viewing platform where much of the same birds were seen again, a solitary Common Sandpiper dropped in and as the water reseeded more birds started to drop in. The Peregrine shot past putting everything up for a few moments, then everything returned to feed.

After ten minutes it was decided to take a walk along "Goats Path Walk" here we had excellent views of the estuary as the tide continued to drop. Local birder Dave Boult who I often meet when visiting here soon has us on to four Terns all perched on separate buoys out on the mud flats. Common, Arctic, Sandwich and Black Tern topped a final days birding in the West Country.


Total birds species seen this trip was 102.
MARINElife & RSPB Bottlenose Dolphin and Balearic Shearwater South West Survey, Tuesday the 18th of August 2015.


This week I was given the opportunity to take part in this survey which was made up of a fleet of small boats and ships, the survey was from Portland in Dorset to Ilfracombe in North Devon. It covered the whole of the South West, the surveys all lasted eight hours in which time we saw a multitude of sea animals and sea birds.


Survey teams Ilfracombe Harbour


For updates and sightings reports you can visit the MARINElife website by clicking on this link.


http://www.marine-life.org.uk/


To support MARINElife you can by visiting this page.


http://www.marine-life.org.uk/become-a-supporter
Lundy Island Trip from Ilfracombe - 15th of August 2015.

This months Wildlife Officer Trip to Lundy Island started in good weather conditions in the company of two fellow MARINElife surveyors, who were onboard for the August Lundy survey. After boarding I left the bridge to embark on navigating myself around the upper and lower outside decks. Before I started chatting to the passengers the first cetacean, a Harbour Porpoise was spotted outside of the harbour.
Within five minutes of leaving Ilfracombe the first of many Gannets were observed souring high above the sea looking for fish to dive on to. As the MS Oldenburg made its way towards Lundy, birds seen were Fulmar, Kittiwake, Lesser Blacked Gull, Guillemot, Herring Gull and Shag. As we got closer to Lundy the amount of Manx Shearwater seen was well over a thousand birds!

A very rapid Manx Shearwater

Two more Manx Shearwater
The outward passage also gave me an opportunity to point out five Common Dolphin off the starboard side feeding under a large gathering of diving Gannets. Before we reached Lundy I was approached by one of the passengers asking what cetacean he had seen on the crossing, he described a Minké Whale and we soon confirmed it with the use of my iphone app, sadly I did not see it!

As the Oldenburg approached Lundy many Grey Seal were hauled out on the rocks.



As we docked everyone disembarked and began to make their way up to the higher levels to explore the Island. Following a quick chat with Beccy the islands warden to find out what species were reported recently, I too, then began to make me way up to the top of the island. My route took me to the western side of Lundy where I found a great spot for lunch. Here I set myself up for some sea watching. No cetaceans were spotted, however the number of birds ran in to thousands! Time on Lundy goes so quickly when you are exploring its many footpaths and cliff edges, the views are fantastic as is the whole island experience. No cars, roads, mobile signal, only peace and quiet, plus the wildlife. The Lundy wild animals included Ponies, Goats, Sika Deer as well as the farm's sheep and Highland cattle.
The crossing back from Lundy provided two further Common Dolphin and two Bottlenose Dolphin sightings and a single large Grey Seal.

Grey Seal Spy Hopping
Upon leaving Oldenburg I said goodbye to my fellow MARINElife volunteers and I now look forward to my next WLO trip in September which will form part of another Devon birding weekend.

Birds seen this trip were, Manx Shearwater,Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Lesser Black-backed gull, Fulmar, Guillemot, Shag, Gannet, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Starling, Raven, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Wood Pigeon, House Martin, Swallow, Linnet, Oystercatcher, Skylark, Goldfinch and Mallard.


25th of July 2015 - Ilfracombe to Lundy MARINElife Wildlife Officer Trip
 
This month’s Wildlife Officer Trip to Lundy Island began in Ilfracombe, arriving at the harbour it was interesting to see many passengers dressed in Victorian costumes and like most people my curiosity got the better of me! It turned out that they were all from a cricket club and were going to Lundy to have a big picnic and to play cricket in the campsite, all this to celebrate a special birthday for one of their party.

As MS Oldenburg left Ilfracombe we soon had sightings of Gannett within a kilometre of the harbour. As the ship made its way towards Lundy there were good numbers of Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbill. Also seen were Fulmar, Kittiwake, Herring Gull and Lesser Black Backed Gull.




An hour in to the journey we caught sight of two Harbour Porpoise from the port side and these were our only cetaceans during the crossing.

As the Oldenburg approached the Lundy landing bay the first of nine Grey Seal was seen in the area of Rat Island. Taking the short route to the shepherds hut, I stopped for lunch and an hour of sea watching. Sadly nothing to report here, however the surrounding area was a haven for Butterflies, Bees and insects.



As the time to return to the jetty was getting closer, I made my way to the back of Rat Island to watch the Grey Seals in the small bay. Here nine animals were located and some were making booming noises not too dissimilar to the coast guards now retired fog horns! As I boarded the ship my eyes were immediately drawn to a large brown bird rafting in the bay, the bird was a Common scoter, a welcome first tick for my overall Lundy bird list. Common Scoter are really not that common as there are only 38 breeding pairs of these birds in the UK, most being in Scotland!



During the return sailing two separate sightings of Common Dolphin made many passengers on the port side extremely happy.



The same birds that were seen earlier were again observed. As we arrived in Ilfracombe harbour, I thanked the crew for another successful day on behalf of MARINElife and I look forward to my next Lundy Wildlife Officer trip in August and also the joint Bottlenose Dolphin and Balearic Shearwater survey with the RSPB three days later. Details are available of this project from the link below.




http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/marinelife
11th of July 2015 - MARINElife survey trip - Newhaven to Dieppe.
 
Arriving in the coastal town of Newhaven, I met up with a fellow MARINElife surveyor at the ferry terminal at 08:00, after a few cups of tea, we were escorted to the "Cote D'Albatre" ferry and as we boarded we were quickly allocated cabin space where upon we made ready for the survey.
 
Reversing out of Newhaven
 Arriving on the bridge, the crew welcomed us and soon began telling us of recent Dolphin sightings on their passages during the week! Dolphins are amazing mammals and to hear stories from seasoned seafarers and their passionate recollections of their encounters is, as always, brilliant!

Leaving the port of Newhaven the ship was soon under way heading towards the French coast. As with all MARINElife surveys we were given a prime spot on the starboard side of the bridge to conduct the survey. Not very long in to the journey we soon had sightings of Harbour Porpoise, a fabulous start to the survey and the total tally for this trip was eight.

Approaching the port of Dieppe
Birds seen, Gannet, Herring, Lesser Black Backed and Black headed Gulls, Guillemot, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Cormorant and Manx Shearwater.
 
Gannet recorded this survey was 148
 
Manx Shearwater
In terms of birds, this trip really was very disappointing as the reports from previous surveys have records of some quality bird species. However, as July is very much the month that is renowned as the quietest on the bird sightings front, we enjoyed the reasonably calm waters and the generous hospitality of DFDS. I look forward to surveying this route again, however, next time maybe I will volunteer during the migration months?
 
29th - 30th of June 2015 MARINElife Survey, Felixstowe to Vlaardingen, Holland.


 I arrived at Felixstowe dock 2, on Monday night to meet up with fellow surveyor Fraser at 10:30pm. Checking in at the DFDS offices, we were quickly issued ship passes for the "Anglian Seaways" Ro-Ro Ferry and then escorted through passport control and driven directly to the ship, which was being loaded with trucks and containers. It always amazes me just how busy and noisy docks are even at almost midnight!

 
Upon boarding the ship we were shown to our cabins and after agreeing to meet up at 05:15am we got some sleep.
 
At 05:30am we started our survey high up on the starboard side of the bridge. The sun was up over the horizon and we very quickly started to record a great many Gannet, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Great Black Backed Gull and Fulmar. During the crossing my first Common Scoter of the year flew past.
 
A total of eight Harbour Porpoise were recorded along with five Grey Seal making the early start more than worth while.
 
DFDS always look after us and this trip was no different with drinks and meals provided for the duration of the survey.
 
As the ship got within ten miles of the mainland we were joined by sixty two other ships all looking as if they too were heading for the same port! A truly amazing sight and one that had the captain and his crew on full alert watching and communicating with other shipping and Dutch coastguard.

 
Entering the "river" (the Nieuwe Waterweg) the captain slowly steered the ship towards the docking pier. The river gave us a great many birds, all are listed below.
 

Arriving in Rotterdam it was time for a power nap before lunch followed by further surveying until 21:00pm. Upon leaving the river we had a oil tanker ship the "Bowfin" on our starboard side at a distance of about a quarter of a mile away. As I looked at her I could see that smoke was coming from her port side, then flames could be seen, thinking the worst, we were delighted to see that the crew had got the flames under control and the ship started to come to a halt.


 Arriving back at Felixstowe at 23:00pm, we thanked the captain and his crew for supporting the MARINElife survey and we made our separate ways home. I'm looking forward to my next survey in July from Newhaven to Dieppe.
 
Birds seen at sea on this survey were, Gannet, Fulmar, Great Skua, Lesser Black-backed Gull,  Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Cormorant, Common Scoter, Starling, Swallow and Woodpigeon.

Birds seen on the Nieuwe Waterweg:

Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Greylag Goose, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Carrion Crow, Feral pigeon, Pied Wagtail, Mallard and Meadow Pipit.

 
27th of June 2015 - Lundy Island Trip

This month's Wildlife Officer Trip to Lundy Island began in Ilfracombe, the sun was shining and the crew of MS Oldenburg were soon welcoming the many passengers on board. This voyage to Lundy had seventeen additional people that were going to the island for a four day MARINElife experience.

After a brief chat on the bridge with Jerry the ship's captain and Brian the first mate, I began my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to as many interested passengers as I could. As usual the conversations were positive and it's always great to hear other likeminded people's wildlife experiences.

Passing Gannet

As the ship left Ilfracombe harbour, the first birds of note were Gannet, followed by Fulmar and Manx Shearwater. All three species were seen within a mile of the harbour. We soon had many Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a few distant Great Black-backed Gull.

Manx Shearwaters
Whilst touring the aft area, I was put on to two Common Dolphin off the starboard side, the two passengers who spotted them turned out to be Sue and Cheryl who are MARINElife members and fellow surveyors. Close by, birds of note were Razorbill and Guillemot.

Common Dolphin
As I was here a solitary Minke whale was seen from the upper starboard side, we sadly missed it! Passengers that go over to Lundy on a regular basis have often told me that these majestic whales are sometimes spotted. Who knows, maybe next time?

As the Oldenburg approached the Lundy landing bay the first of four Grey Seal was seen bobbing effortlessly. My afternoon was spent checking out the new Antony Gormley statue which is very fitting for Lundy. Here is also a good location for a spot of sea watching while having lunch. Looking down to the sea there were many Razorbill, Guillemot, Gannet and the usual gulls. Raven went over as did  a small flock of Goldfinch. In the surrounding area the beautiful sound of Skylark was heard and I watched many fly very high continuing their song. Linnet, Meadow Pipit and Wheatear were plentiful too.

Skylark
Before the crossing back to Ilfracombe Rat island provided a further three Grey Seal. During the return sailing two separate pairs of Common Dolphin thrilled everyone on board. Watching for birds gave up the same birds that were seen earlier, however a lone Puffin was seen off the port side, much to many peoples delight. A single brief fin of a Porpoise was seen as the ship passed Morte Point on the mainland.

We arrived back in Ilfracombe harbour where the day's trip concluded, I thanked Jerry the captain and his crew for another successful day on behalf of MARINElife and I look forward to my next Lundy Wildlife Officer trip in July.
Anthony Gormley Statue looking out to sea
 
14th of June 2015 - Melodious Warbler - Marsh Lane, Warwickshire.
 
My distant record shot


Following other commitments since this local rarity showed up near the Marsh Lane N.R. I really didn't think I would get to see it!

Setting out after reading "Twitter" and a phone call to a birding mate, I made my way out in what was a really dull afternoon, rain clouds filled the sky and as I drove towards the area, rain spots appeared and thoughts of wet weather gear was on the cards!

As I made my way along the lane the rain stayed off and I soon saw a small crowd. Within seconds  of reaching the line of birders, my first Melodious Warbler was sighted and its beautiful song was heard for the first time. A lifer for me and also the third lifer since last weekend.
Weekend Birding trip to East Riding, Yorkshire, 6th - 7th of June 2015.

A much anticipated trip to the county of Yorkshire was last weekends birding destination. The plan was an early morning boat trip from Bridlington to photograph diving Gannets off the nearby Bempton Cliffs with Steve Race from the RSPB. Sadly due to the extremely high winds, the sailing was cancelled and therefore plan "B" was put in to action.

Following tips and discussions with our B & B's proprietor, I set off with my birding buddy to check out a local lane on the outskirts of Bridlington. The area is know for its Barn Owls and numerous raptor species. As I drove along the lane, three birds where seen flying along the right hand side of the car. "BEE EATERS" we cried! they then stopped in a tree and my brakes took the full force of my right foot, which in turn brought the car to an immediate halt. Jumping swiftly out with my binoculars in hand the three birds where observed and we watched them moving from the tree across the rapeseed field and back again for a good half an hour. A quick telephone call to the rest of the party still enjoying breakfast at the B & B, soon had everyone in hot pursuit of these stunning colourful birds. I managed a few distant record shots with my camera of what was a "Lifer" not just for me, but for many of the others too.

Record shot of one Bee Eater
After a while the three turned in to a total of five Bee Eaters, something I never expected to see, one maybe in the UK, but not five! A truly magical birding experience that I will never forget.

Following the excitement we all made our way to the Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve to take in the many Gannet, Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake and the iconic Puffins that are nesting on the chalk cliffs. Although I have visited here very recently, it was great to see the spectacle of over 200,000 sea birds in this one location.


 

 
The afternoon was spent exploring the surrounding East Riding area and included a spot of sea watching at Flamborough, before everyone headed off to a local Indian restaurant for the evening.

A very memorable day in Yorkshire indeed and it won't be too long before I visit the area again.

 
17th of May 2015 - RSBP Bempton Cliffs - Gannet Fest.

The last trip of the season with friends from the Coventry and Warwickshire RSPB Group had one particular very eager birder very excited of the prospect of seeing a huge number of my two favourite sea birds the Gannet and the iconic Puffin.

As we waited for the coach in Coventry, many of the crowd were looking towards the building behind the swimming pool, here a Peregrine was perched high on a ledge, tick one of two for the day!

The journey to Yorkshire was a long one, however the goal was very much worth it. Arriving at the superb visitors centre, I was off towards the first platform with my two birding buddies Steve and Gary. First sightings were Kittiwake, Razorbill , Guillemot, including a Bridled Guillemot and Gannet, then within a few minutes, my first two Puffin of the day.


Bridled Guillemot
Walking between the platforms along the cliff edges gave up Skylark, Yellowhammer and Jackdaw.

As our time was limited, I spent most of it trying to photograph the birds, this location is an absolute joy to visit with superb views of the chalk cliffs, it's birds, the bay at Filey with Scarborough beyond and the vast, but relatively calm North Sea.
 
 
 

Before I knew it two hours had quickly passed and I settled on a bench for lunch, with my scope positioned to scan the sea. Here I spent half an hour looking out for possible cetaceans, sadly none were seen. I did however during the day, catch sight of two Grey Seal which were roughly about a hundred metres from the mainland.

 The species count for the day was low, however the shear mass of sea birds was a great spectacle! As I was leaving to catch the coach back I stopped by the patio area to watch the many Tree Sparrows that were feeding around the bird tables, Hedge Sparrow and Pied Wagtail finished the visit off.

Gannets Galore!









 
 
 
As with all of the trips, I thanked Lesley and Peter Berrill who organise these and I certainly look forward to supporting the group's trips next season.