Wise Birding Holidays

Friday, 1 September 2017

Budleigh Goose Safari

This morning I intended to look for migrants but was somewhat distracted by geese of captive origin! At this time of year the Canada Goose flock often feeds in the stubble fields above the Otter and this morning a flock of 450+ birds were present. The main distraction this morning was finding a "small-bodied" Canada Goose in the flock, known as Cackling Goose. 

On size and plumage it is presumably a Ridgway's Cackling Goose, a Pacific species fairly common in captivity and complete with green ring! It is also the same bird seen by James Diamond on Exminster Marshes on the 18th June on the Exe and then by Matt Knott a few days ago flying over Orcombe. 

Also in the flock this morning were the Bar-headed Goose now back for it's 3rd autumn and two Greylag Geese.
Regardless of their origins, the Cackling Goose and Bar-headed Goose are both very smart looking birds!

The following subspecies of Cackling Goose are now recognised: hutchinsii (‘Richardson’s Cackling Goose’), minima (‘Ridgway’s Cackling Goose’), taverneri (‘Taverner’s Cackling Goose’) and leucopareia (‘Aleutian Cackling Goose’).

A great article on the Canada Geese by David Sibley HERE

Migrants today included:
10+ Wheatear
4+ White Wagtail
1 Yellow Wagtail - over
Meadow Pipit - 10+ over
1 Black-tailed Godwit on the estuary
Plus a small movement of Swallow & House Martin this evening and at least 1 Sand Martin.

The Cackling Goose was on the Otter Estuary this evening.....

Presumed Ridgway's Cackling Goose in with Canada Goose flock - Budleigh Salterton Top Fields

Presumed Ridgeway's Cackling Goose - Apart from the obviously small size, the short neck,
stubby bill and dark breast also suggest this subspecies

Presumed Ridgeway's Cackling Goose - The green colour ring sadly suggests captive origin

Cackling Goose illustrating the tiny size against Canada Geese

Bar-headed Goose - This bird has been associating with the flock for a week
or so now and is presumably the same bird present for the last two autumns 

Greylag Goose - one of two birds in the flock plus a feral White Goose in the background

Monday, 28 August 2017

More Yellow Wagtails and other Migrants

Despite the continued high pressure and almost no wind, the patch seemed quite birdy today. A walk around the West Cliffs in the morning and an evening walk around the East Cliffs produced the following migrant highlights.

Yellow Wagtail - 15+ East Cliffs
Tree Pipit  - 1 West Cliffs
Reed Warbler - 1 West Cliffs
Wheatear - 1 West Cliffs and 5 East Cliffs
Garden Warbler - 2 Golf Course

The number of Yellow Wagtails in Devon in recent days seems exceptional with a number of counts of in excess of 100 birds. See Steve's Blog HERE. Many of these birds are grounded as feeding flocks which seems unusual in high pressure and light winds when you would perhaps expect most to be flyovers. Long may it continue!
Green Woodpecker - Juvenile

Yellow Wagtail - one of at least 15+ birds feeding on the east cliffs

Wheatear - 2 of a group of 5 birds on the east cliffs

Swallow - 2 juveniles on the east cliffs

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Cattle Egret and Yellow Wagtails

This morning I headed up to the West Cliffs just below West Down Beacon hoping for some visible migration. Biggest surprise was a Cattle Egret at around 07.50hrs heading low west. I wonder if it was one of the Seaton birds moving or just one of many that seem to be in the country at the moment? I immediately gave a call to adjacent patch watcher Matt Knott in the hope he might connect with it but there was no further sign. Maybe it went inland? Other birds this morning included 3+ Yellow Wagtails, 2 White Wagtail, Yellowhammer and small numbers of House Martin and Swallow heading west.

Following a tip off from Doug Cullen, I decided to visit a cattle field near Ladram Bay where there  a flock of at least 30+ Yellow Wagtails were present. Great to see such a flock particularly for a species which is sadly becoming less and less common these days!
Cattle Egret - Budleigh West Cliffs

Yellow Wagtail - one of the 30+ near Ladram Bay

Yellow Wagtails - Great to see this flock feeding in close proximity to the Cattle

Yellow Wagtails - More of the flock

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Yellow Warbler, Isle of Portland

Yesterday's news of an American Yellow Warbler just 60 miles away on the Isle of Portland was totally unexpected. Despite having seen plenty in the States and in Canada, seeing one in the beloved South West was just too tempting. Within a couple of hours I was on site and watching this great bird in the lovely evening sunshine. 
The rest as they say is history. 

No great surprises that the bird appears to have moved on today. It was very vocal just before dusk and flycatching regularly. You can just hear the bird above the sound of the camera shutters on the recording below.

Great to catch up with fellow birder and friend "Edge" too. Just a shame I couldn't join him for a celebratory pudding in the Pulpit Inn. Happy Days!

Below are a few pics for the record, but if you want some real quality pics have a look on Tim White's blog HERE
American Yellow Warbler - Isle of Portland 

American Yellow Warbler - Isle of Portland
American Yellow Warbler - Isle of Portland

Portland Bird Observatory and Lighthouse

Monday, 24 July 2017

SHETLAND: Fetlar Weeks 3 & 4

Another great couple of weeks on Fetlar with too many highlights to mention. Female Phalaropes are disappearing by the day and those that are still hanging on are in heavy moult. Great to see a reasonable number of chicks and fully fledged juveniles around too. Highlight of the last few days has without doubt been seeing Orcas just metres off-shore whilst taking a stroll with the Mrs on the west side of Fetlar - simply magic!

This bull Orca was one of the highlights of my penultimate week here - Simply magic!

Atlantic Grey Seal - Orca food!

Greylag Geese - many juveniles around at present

Lapwing - Great to see so many of these breeding up here, they are fabulous looking waders

Golden Plover - a magical sound around the moorland

Edmondston's Chickweed - Endemic to the island of Unst at the Keen of Hamar NR

Juvenile Red-necked Phalarope - Fresh juvenile plumage is quite stunning

Great Skua - You are never far away from one of these bruisers

Twite - feeding flocks are now quite common

KIller Whales or Orcas - Ridiculous views from shore seen from the west side of Fetlar at Lamb Hoga

Orca family - a group of at least 5 animals appeared right beside us for the classic wow factor experience!

More Orca action

Orca - one of two large bulls

Monday, 10 July 2017

SHETLAND: Fetlar Week 2

My second week working on Fetlar has passed very quickly. The weather has been pretty stable with some exceptionally calm days with little wind; a rarity for Shetland! Female Phalaropes are already starting to moult and will be heading south in the coming days. Below are a few more of the week's highlights from this wonderful island with a population of no more than 50 people.

Female Red-necked Phalarope, Loch of Funzie - Simply stunning birds

Male Red-necked Phalarope, Loch of Funzie - Much more variable in plumage than females

RSPB Loch of Funzie - The place to see Red-necked Phalaropes on Fetlar

Long-tailed Duck - This unseasonal bird is still present and makes it into July

The east end of Fetlar looking south to the Out Skerries

Moss Carder Bumblebee or "Shetland" Bumblebee - Shetland subspecies agricolae

Common Snipe - simply everywhere on Fetlar

Twite are often found around the meadows

Juvenile Wheatear


Otters are relatively frequent on Fetlar  - Just hope for a closer one!

The Out Skerries

Juvenile Dunlin

Northern Marsh Orchid

Black Guillemot - seen from the ferry between Fetlar and Yell and around the coast

Arctic Tern on Loch of Funzie

Pair of dark Arctic Skuas

Monday, 3 July 2017

SHETLAND: Fetlar Week 1

I am currently working for the RSPB on a short term contract based on the island of Fetlar, one of the most northerly of the Shetland Islands. I am primarily carrying out all bird surveys with a focus on monitoring Red-necked Phalaropes.
Fetlar is a wonderful island crammed full of breeding waders, skuas, terns, divers and seabirds, let alone some amazing flower meadows, insects and scenery and it is a real privilege to be working here again.

Below are just a few of the highlights from week one.

I had a great view of Fair Isle during the flight from Edinburgh to Sumburgh

Baelans Cottage - The RSPB Office on Fetlar and my home for the coming weeks

You are never too far from a Great Skua / Bonxie colony on Shetland

Lovely to hear and see breeding plumaged Golden Plovers just around the cottage

Dunlin - another great sound of the breeding moorlands

The commute to work on some days can be tricky with Ringed Plovers nesting in the centre of tracks!

The flowers on Fetlar are truly stunning - Heath Spotted Orchid

Not particularly uncommon in the UK, but great to see in abundance - Yellow-rattle

Long-tailed Duck - an unseasonal bird on Loch of Funzie

Fetlar coastline looking towards Unst

Fulmars are simply stunning birds

Arctic Tern feeding chicks

"Shetland" Wren - The endemic race zetlandicus
Female Red-necked Phalarope, Loch of Funzie

Red-throated Divers on Loch of Funzie - simply stunning in breeding plumage