Sunday, 2 February 2014

Green Sandpiper

I headed out this morning on the look for some Little Owls, hoping that they would be taking advantage of the sunny conditions and be easy to spot. In the end I checked several regular sites and only found one bird and didn't bother photographing it as the resulting image would have been an exact replica of my last posted image.
The surprise was finding a Green Sandpiper near Pickwell on the way home. The bird was feeding around a small section  of flooded field that is always very wet but I'd never seen a wader there before. If anyone is interested it was about 1 mile north east of the village along Stygate Lane, close to Melton Meats, in the field with the wind turbine. As I could stay in the car and shoot from there, the bird did not spook and was quite obliging.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Short shrift but one down!

Hello all, its been a mere two weeks since my last blog post, I think this counts as fulfilling my blog resolution to post more often!

Short Shrift

I've spent a tremendous amount of time in the pursuit of seeing Short-eared Owls this year. Shorties are my favourite birds without question and at this time of year I just can't help myself!
A few sightings have occurred in an area near me; an area that has held wintering birds in the past. I have visited the area probably a dozen times now - at dawn, at dusk, in the middle of the day, during rain, during wind, during sunshine and have precisely zero sightings to show for it. Yay.

The local Little Owls have been more obliging thankfully. I've recently been corresponding with fellow owl enthusiast Richard Pegler who also owls in the same area as I do and as a result we've both gained a couple of new sites to monitor. Cushty.

One Down
Because I've spent so much time owling recently, my quest to improve my county list had gone off the rails slightly. In January. Not a good start! In my defence I have been swotting up on my gull I.D theory; I must admit I was lacking in that particular area and thought I'd better release my inner larophile as a warm-up technique. I had intended to head over to Albert Village lake on Tuesday afternoon to have a look for some white-wingers but was sidetracked before I began by the Great Grey Shrike in the far east of the county..
Great Grey Shrike is a bit of an enigma for me - before today I had seen three in the UK; two at Harrington and the odd bird at Fakenham the other winter but never one in Leicestershire. So I was keen for this one to be the first county tick of the year, even though I'd forgotten to add it to the list of "most wanted" species in my last post. Oops.
Either way, off I went and got extremely lucky by all accounts. As I approached the spot where it had been reported from last, I saw a bird perched on a hedge about 50m away. And there it was. For just about long enough to rattle off a few record shots.
It disappeared almost immediately however so I departed down the road for a look to see if I could find it, didn't, and so returned to the place I'd seen it last. Three other birders including Steve Lister had appeared by now and had relocated the bird very distantly on the opposite side of the road to where I'd seen it. It quickly did another disappearing act so off I went, happy.
17 to go!


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Another one...

Yes, another year has passed; now is the time for reflection of past deeds and for the planning of new ones! First and foremost of my new deeds for this year is to try and post more on here, I can explain away large chunks of my blogging absence by the fact I was living in a caravan at Rutland Water for a few months but more recently Ive upgraded to a wee cottage and equipped it with some internet so no more excuses!

My main aim for 2014 will be my county list. I've always only really cared about county birds and eagled-eyed visitors to the LROS website will notice a new addition to the county listing page - me! I'd never even bothered compiling a county list before - I knew what I had and hadn't seen but had never been bothered enough to put an exact number on it. Now I have and that number is 212 which puts me at the giddy heights of 41st place in the table. I must admit I expected it to be higher - a few months ago I leafed through my Collins doing a quick rough list and ended up at around 230 species, god knows what I'd been smoking that day as the actual number was much lower.

The downside of compiling my list has unfortunately made me want more! I can't help but cast admiring glances up to Mackay, Berriman, Lister & co. all happily sat at around the 270-mark and as a result my main aim for this year is to increase my county list as much as possible. So I'll set myself a challenge. This time next year I'd like to be on 230 species. That makes 18 county ticks required this year, quite a big ask! The task is made slightly easier as there are several relatively easy-to-see species that I should be able to add without too much bother although this will unfortunately find me moving into the dark (or should it be dirty grey?) world of gulling.

The following species should be relatively easy;

Iceland Gull
Glaucous Gull
Caspian Gull
Wood Warbler - will probably require a twitch but the species is still annual in Leics & Rutland
Corn Bunting - a few small colonies remain in the outskirts of the county

My list has a big, fat void around the area of seabirds and with some favourable weather and a little luck I could possibly add any of the following

Manx Shearwater
Any Skua
Storm Petrel

And the following are certainly possible and/or have been recorded in the county in the past few years

Red-necked Grebe
Ferruginous Duck
Lesser Scaup
Honey Buzzard
Stone Curlew
Rough-legged Buzzard
Hen Harrier
Monty's Harrier
Cattle Egret
Great White Egret
Glossy Ibis
Water Pipit
White-winged Black Tern
Red-backed Shrike
Hooded Crow
Red-footed Falcon
Savis Warbler
Snow Bunting
Lapland Bunting

If I get all of the above I shall have achieved my goal but lets face it, I certainly won't!
That leaves stuff of a rarer calibre that might just turn up;

Broad-billed, Baird's, Terek, Marsh, Stilt Sandpipers
Small Gulls - Ross's, Bonapartes, Sabine etc
Two-Barred/ Parrot Crossbill - especially with the influx of rare crossbill this winter
Squacco Heron
White Stork
Purple Heron
Black Kite

so...plenty to be getting on with. Although even by some miracle I did manage to see all of the above birds, I'd still be around 10 short of the Leicestershire big-listers. No fair!

After all that waffling have a rubbish photo of a Brambling I took near Barnsdale yesterday

And a less rubbish photo of a Little Owl taken whilst not seeing a Great Grey Shrike near Hungarton the other week

In recent weeks/months I've also seen the Great Grey Shrike that Paul Riddle found at Harrington (thanks Paul!), the Black-throated and Great Northern Divers at Swithland and Rutland respectively and had a trip to Norfolk where a ringtail Hen Harrier was seen whilst inspecting storm damage at Brancaster. Update done!