Wise Birding Holidays

Monday, 24 August 2015

Feeling Autumnal

After a very successful weekend at the Bird Fair all weekend on the Wise Birding Holidays stand, I was eager to get back to the patch where it seemed distinctly autumnal today. I was hoping for a Wood Sandpiper as it seemed to be literally raining Wood Sands yesterday with an incredible count of  34 birds yesterday at Black Hole Marsh, Seaton just to the east of us.

No luck with Wood Sandpiper, but 2 Green Sandpiper on the estuary was noteworthy for the Otter as were 2 Sanderling this evening. Other highlights today around the estuary and the top fields were:
10+ Wigeon
15+ Teal
1 Whimbrel
5 Dunlin
5 Ringed Plover
1 Black-tailed Godwit
8+ Wheatear 
1 Whinchat

1st year Great Black-baked Gull, Budleigh beach

Juvenile Ringed Plover, Otter Estuary

Adult Sanderling, Otter Estuary

Juvenile Sanderling, Otter Estuary

Adult Little Egret, Otter Estuary

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Budleigh Balearics

As part of the joint RSPB Marinelife dedicated Balearic Shearwater count in the South West today the Mrs and I watched from Budleigh 06.45 - 13.00hrs and despite the calm seas and a beautiful summer day we still managed to tally:
21 Balearic Shearwaters, 600+ Manx Shearwater, 1 Arctic Skua and 10 Common Scoter. 
All the shearwater activity was between 06.45 and 08.15hrs with all birds heading East except 5 of the Balearics which went West. Also two groups of Bottlenose Dolphins making 12+ minimum. 
Thanks in particular to Pebbles B&B for keeping us supplied with Coffee, Bacon Sandwiches and Cake!
It will be interesting to see the other counts from across the region's other watchpoints. 

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Garden Tick!

Had a surprise today whilst having breakfast as a Common Redstart landed in the garden and duly performed for 10 minutes before disappearing into adjacent gardens. It takes the garden list tally to 71 species.

1st year male Common Redstart

1st year male Common Redstart

Monday, 27 July 2015

Garden Bumbles

For something a little bit different and in light of bees being in the headlines again regarding the use of neonicotinoids or "neonics", Helen and I spent the weekend trying to identify the different species of Bumblebee present in our garden. I knew very little about Bumblebees and still do, but am learning! So if anyone out there disagrees with any of the identifications, I will be happy to learn more!

More on neonics (one of the world's most widely used insecticides) known to be very harmful to bees HERE

Common Carder Bumblebee (left) Male White-tailed Bumblebee (right)

White-tailed Bumblebees - Queen/Worker (top) Male with diagnostic yellow head (bottom)

Male White-tailed Bumblebee

Male White-tailed Bumblebee

Queen/Worker, Red-tailed Bumblebee

Male Red-tailed Bumblebee with diagnostic yellow face and red-tail

Common Carder Bumblebee

Common Carder Bumblebee

Male Buff-tailed Bumblebee

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Shetland Part II and Mainland Scotland

Well, we are now back in the sunny South West after almost a month away. Shetland was certainly a fantastic place to be in June and I very much look forward to returning, hopefully in September! If I was to sum up two of the most surprising things regarding breeding birds during my visit, it would be an obvious lack of Whimbrel and Arctic Skuas. Both species are declining dramatically and as with so many seabirds, the exact causes are not known. Whimbrel are thought to be arriving in poor condition from their wintering sites in West Africa. On a more positive note, Red-necked Phalaropes seem to be having a great breeding year!

After leaving Fetlar, we spent a few days on South Mainland and visited the RSPB Reserve on the island of Mousa as well as Sumburgh Head. Then a couple of days catching up with friends on mainland Scotland. Below are a few more pics......

Dark Phase Arctic Skua - Sumburgh Head

Light Phase Arctic Skua, Sumburgh Head

Light Phase Arctic Skua, Sumburgh Head

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, South Mainland

Bonxie, Sumburgh Head

Fulmars, Sumburgh Head

Gannet, Sumburgh Head

Great Black-backed Gull, Sumburgh Head

Puffin, Sumburgh Head

Razorbill, Sumburgh Head

Twite, Fetlar

Wheatear, Sumburgh Head

Juvenile Wheatear, Fetlar

Whimbrel, Fetlar - this colour-ringed bird has been returning to breed on Fetlar since at least 2010

Mousa Broch, Mousa Island - a late evening visit to see the returning Storm Petrels was quite a
magical experience

Otter, Toft, North Mainland

Otter, Toft, North Mainland

Cairngorm, not far from Ben Macdui - the home of Snowy Owls!

Dotterel, Cairngorm

Common Seal, North Mainland

Grey Seal, Ythan Estuary

Ring Ouzel, Cairngorm

Fieldwork food whilst on Fetlar - you cannot beat them....

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Shetland: The Northern Isles

Now half way through a trip to Shetland volunteering for the RSPB as part of Helen's Sabbatical. We are based on Fetlar and are carrying out various bird surveys on Fetlar, Yell and Unst for Species & Habitats Officer Malcie Smith and his assistant, Andy Simpkin. 

This is my third visit to Shetland, but the first trip during the Summer months and it is simply fantastic. Shetland at this time of year is all about the breeding waders and seabirds and staying on Fetlar is a real privilege. It feels almost uninhabited (the population is currently around 50) with birds nesting everywhere and it is great to see so many breeding waders doing so well, the exception being Whimbrel which has severely declined.

I have managed time for birding before and after surveys and have found a few scarce migrants including RB Shrike, Icterine Warbler and Marsh Warbler. Sadly did not find the Swainson's Thrush! I was birding my adopted local patch that morning, the Houbie Burn. I could see some birders peering into a garden in the distance. After having birded the burn, I went to speak to them and they had just clinched the id after having first seen the bird at around 9.30pm the previous night! Nice group of guys from Oxford  who found it and to be fair, the bird may well have never been found unless they had been staying in the B&B which overlooked the very dense and inaccessible garden the bird was hiding in.

The weather has been very cold not getting above 7-8 degrees the first few days and is still pretty chilly now, but still loving it. Birds still seem to be turning up too. Eye-browed Thrush on nearby Whalsay yesterday! More surveys still to do, but shall keep looking......

Here are a few highlights from the trip so far...
The view from our accommodation on Fetlar

Tresta Beach from Lamb Hoga

Spotted Flycatcher, Houbie Burn, Fetlar

Common Chiffchaff, Skaw, Unst

Shetland Wren, Houbie Burn, Fetlar

Icterine Warbler, Houbie Burn, Fetlar

Icterine Warbler, Houbie village sharing garden with a Swainson's Thrush

Swainson's Thrush, Houbie, Fetlar - possibly Shetland's first Spring record

Swainson's Thrush, Houbie, Fetlar

Marsh Warbler, Loch of Funzie, Fetlar - This bird took a good 2 hours to pin down until I was happy with the id.
It was very skulky and looked very pallid in the field, but the primary projection soon excluded the chance of anything
rarer! The pale tipped primaries, leg colour, contrast in flight feathers, head shape etc. all finally led to Marsh Warbler

Marsh Warbler, Loch of Funzie, Fetlar - amazing how different the supercilium looks in this photo!

Light phase Arctic Skua, Fetlar

Dark phase Arctic Skua, Unst

Great Skua, Hermaness, Unst

Arctic Tern, Fetlar

Common Gull, Fetlar

The inter-island ferry

Helen at the most northerly bus stop in the UK, Unst

Curlew Chick, Fetlar

Dunlin, Yell

Juvenile Lapwing, Fetlar

Oysterctachers, Fetlar

Golden Plover, Fetlar

Male Red-necked Phalarope, Loch of Funzie, Fetlar - with patience this is the safest place to watch and photograph
birds without causing disturbance

Male and female Red-necked Phalaropes, Loch of Funzie, Fetlar

Common Snipe, Fetlar

Red-throated Divers, Loch of Funzie, Fetlar - a number of birds regularly gather on the loch to preen before returning to nest sites

Gannet colony, Hermaness, Unst

The impressive Saito Outcrop, Hermaness, Unst - previous home of the faous Black-browed Albatross

Gannets and Chick, Hermaness, Unst

Gannets, Hermaness, Unst

Squabbling Gannets, Hermaness, Unst

Gannet, Hermaness, Unst

Puffin, Hermaness, Unst

Puffin, Hermaness, Unst

Out Skerries from Fetlar

Surveying in the warm Shetland summer!

Muckle Flugga Lighthouse, Unst
Fulmars, Fetlar