27th July 2014 – Green Sand & Spotted Redshank are the ‘highlights’…

Nowt much to report really. All work and no play I’m afraid, lots and lots of 0445hr alarms has been the order of the day for the past 3 or 4 weeks.

Wader and gull numbers have been rising nicely on the Solway recently. The ‘highlight’ over the last week or so for me was a Green Sand – a patch tick for me at Port. Apart from that a Spotted Redshank has been the pick of the bunch – but it really does look like there should be a Great Knot or something equally mega out there. Other bits have been 3 Little Egrets, a single summer-plumaged Sanderling, Turnstone, a couple of smart Black-tailed Godwits, about 40 Golden Plovers, the first returning Knot and a dozen or so Whimbrel. Here’s a few ‘better-than-nothing’ digiscoped shots…

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and one of our babby Woodpeckers in the garden, unusually hopping around on the grass underneath the feeders…

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3rd July 2014 – Glossy Ibis at Milnthorpe…

 1st summer Glossy Ibis distant and digiscoped on the River Bela south of Milnthorpe…

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30th June 2014 – Twitching Bridled Tern? – Just Say NO!

All birders have probably got a bogey-bird. A species that you’ve tried to see several times before and missed. A species that frustrates, a species that gets under your skin. Bridled Tern has definitely become my bogey-bird…

Back in 2003 news of a Bridled Tern at Arbroath in Scotland had me heading north, the excitement in the car increased as we neared the site - the bird was still present and with only a few miles to go our pencils were sharpened ready to tick-off this charasmatic mega-rarity. But in those last few agonizing minutes the bird flew off. We searched for it until dark but there was no further sign, we even stopped overnight in a B&B and were out searching at first light the next morning, hoping that the bird would reappear. It didn’t and we returned home empty-handed. And so began my list of Bridled Tern ‘dips’!

My next chance of seeing one came last year when a bird appeared on the Farne Islands during the summer. But I now had a very unflexible full-time job and ‘dad’ duties to consider, I was unable to drop everything and just go, and I had to wait many days before my opportunity came. Added to this was the fact that it’s appearances at any one site were pretty erratic, making deciding when and where to go for this bird a bit of a lottery. One day it could be on the Farnes for an hour or so, then another day it was at Cresswell or Chevington for a little while, and some days it wasn’t seen at all. It even visited Cleveland, East Yorkshire, the Isle of May and Aberdeenshire just for good measure! Needless to say I tried in vain to see the bird, and my list remained Bridled Tern-less.

Then on 20th June this year, news came through that it was sitting on rocks on Inner Farne - it had returned! Once again work and family commitments meant I had to sit tight, but this gave me plenty of time to study it’s movements. For 8 consecutive days it had appeared on the rocks near the jetty, and in the afternoons it seemed pretty much ‘guaranteed’. That was it, I cracked. On the 28th June Col and I booked our place on board ‘Serenity’ for the 30th June.

We were in an optimistic mood as we made our way over to Seahouses, the bird had now been seen for the last 10 days on Inner Farne. However our optimism wavered ever so slightly as we headed out on the boat when Andrew (the skipper), informed us that it hadn’t been seen yet today. Hmm. It had been there for the last 10 days so surely it would behave for us today? Eventually we got dropped off on Inner Farne at about 2pm. The news that greeted us from the Rangers wasn’t good - “No sign yet”. We immediately began scanning through all the terns. It wasn’t there. We carried on scanning. It flippin’ wasn’t there! For the next 2 hours we sat on the jetty scanning all the terns, all the rocks, all the terns offshore. But it didn’t appear. Bridled Tern had done the dirty on me yet again…

To torture me even more, as I write this (1st July), the bird is back!!!!! Seriously, you couldn’t make it up!

Both Col and I did however find 2 Roseate Terns, which was nice. Some small consolation I guess. These were in fact the first Roseate Terns I’d seen for 11 years… 

Not a Bridled Tern....

Not a Bridled Tern….

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And some other bits n bobs from the trip…

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So if you’re thinking of going for it, just make sure that I’m not going on the same day as you!

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7th June 2014 – Garden Mystery…

Whilst cutting the lawn one day last week I noticed what at first glance looked like part of a fat ball in the grass, but then I remembered that we haven’t been putting fat balls out for a couple of months now. I had a closer look and thought it may have been a pellet of some sort, but then as I began to pick through it with my fingers I noticed that it was parts of small crabs and that it smelled fishy.

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Most of the smaller bits fell through the grass but I collected what I could to take a photo…

With a 1p piece for scale

With a 1p piece for scale

What could’ve been eating crabs and visiting our garden? Our garden is approximately 1 mile from the actual edge of the Solway Estuary - but only a few hundred metres away from the marsh. It’s got me scratching my head. Otter spraint is usually darker I think, and looks like poo. This was just bits of crab. It would be nice to think we’d been visited by an otter but I really don’t know what to make of it to be honest. Another suggestion was Heron, but we don’t have a pond in the garden and it would be strange to think of a Heron just wandering around on our lawn. Early yesterday morning there was a dead otter (it looked like a small one) on the road between Kirkandrews-on-Eden and Grinsdale bridge, I hate seeing otters that have been killed by cars. Very sad.

On a cheerier note the 3 nest boxes in our garden that were occupied by Tree Sparrows have all fledged successfully…

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And we have occasional visits by Spotted Flycatcher.

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The railings roost has again been poor this spring (well it has on my visits anyway!), but one day last week there was over 60 Sanderlings…

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27th-29th May 2014 – Isle of Mull and Iona’s Corncrakes…

I managed to get a few days off work this week, and with the weather forecast looking pretty dire around the mainland it was an easy decision to once again head to the beautiful islands off the northwest coast of Scotland where the forecast was slightly better.

It was a good move, as we approached Oban we were treated to glorious hot sunshine and clear blue skies…

The Falls of Lora

The Falls of Lora

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Duart Castle from the ferry.

Duart Castle from the ferry.

The drive across Mull was truly breathtaking, and 2 Golden Eagles were seen on the way…

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We ‘wild’ camped, what an unbelievable place to fall asleep and wake up…

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On the morning of the 28th we woke up just in time to get to Fionnphort to get the first ferry of the day over to the Isle of Iona…

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And within minutes I was hearing my first of several Corncrakes calling from one of the many dense iris beds - but seeing one was soon proving very difficult indeed! After about 45 minutes of listening to one particular bird I was beginning to think I wouldn’t see it, even though I was confident I was staring into the right bit of vegetation. Another bird began calling behind me but I persevered with the original bird, even though it was tempting to leave it, and finally I was rewarded - a glimpse of the bird as it sped across some shorter vegetation. Of course I was relieved to have at least seen it but it was all over in seconds. I meandered further along the path, I could hear another 4 birds calling from various iris beds all around me, and I settled down by the path to listen and hopefully see one a bit better than the first!

From my vantage point I was looking down onto the iris beds and I felt certain that I should be able to see the bird I was currently staking out. Every couple of minutes it was calling, ‘crex crex, crex crex’, but still I couldn’t see the flippin’ thing! An hour later and still no view of it, and I have to admit that a little bit of frustration was beginning to creep in, and then through my bins I eventually spotted it….

Crippling views...

Crippling views…

I went to get Tracy and Jamie to show them it, and when I returned this is the sight that greeted me…

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A bird had come right out into the open and was happily preening away!!!….Flippin’ eck!!

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Whilst we sat open-mouthed watching this bird, another one called close-by, and slowly came into the same view, and then it promptly scared off the preening bird…

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Get in! We were buzzing now, we couldn’t believe what we’d just seen, and happy with our experience we enjoyed Iona’s other attractions…

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With the family happily playing on the beach in the warm sunshine, I decided to explore other parts of Iona that I’d not seen before. Corncrakes called everywhere, and as I approached a farm track one particular bird called incredibly close to the track, it seemed completely fearless as tourists wandered past. I saw it cross the track in front of me and begin to call loudly no more than 10 feet away. All the while people walked past and it continued to call, it wasn’t bothered at all. As I sat motionless by the track it approached me even closer, and eventually I got a view of it through the irises…

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And then it did something I wasn’t expecting at all, it walked across the short turf to some other iris beds, completely out in the open…

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Having a wander around!

Having a wander around!

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Leg it!

Leg it!

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It seemed somewhat ironic that I’d spent ages earlier trying to see one, then this bird just wandered around calling without a care in the world – ain’t birding great! Back to Mull very happy indeed…

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And then we got the sad news that one of our pets had taken a turn for the worse back home and we decided that we had to return the next day. So it was all a bit brief and rushed in the end. Ho hum. So other bits that were seen on our quick visit included 2 White-tailed Eagles but alas no pics, 3 Golden Eagles, 3 stonking male Hen Harriers, a summer plumaged Great Northen Diver, rafts of Manx Shearwaters on Loch Scridain, Cuckoo’s absolutely everywhere and an Otter as we departed Craignure.

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Ben Nevis from Craignure

Ben Nevis from Craignure

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18th May 2014 – Black Terns and Yellow Wags…

It was great to see two smart Black Terns at Longtown this afternoon, it’s a species that can be very hard to catch up with in Cumbria. In fact it’s only the 2nd time I’ve seen the species in spring up here, all the others have been juveniles in autumn. It was also an enjoyable challenge trying to get some photos of them – they don’t half twist and turn and zip around!

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IMG_0987-copy It was also really great to see some Yellow Wagtails…

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Redstart - Finglandrigg Wood

Redstart – Finglandrigg Wood

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6th May 2014 – Tawny Owl…

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DSCN7036-copy Thanks Barbara! What a fantastic bird.

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