Sunday, 10 May 2015

Bonny Scotland!

I've just had a splendid week in Scotland with my wife and daughter. We couldn't completely escape the election, as SNP banners and flags were everywhere, but we did our best.

We stayed in a lovely cottage that overlooked Loch Ewe. On the way we stopped at Loch Garten to take part in Capercaillie Watch. It turned out to be a bad decision as far as the Capers were concerned, because the only male that was displaying was hidden behind a tree. Can you year tick one based on seeing it on CCTV camera? However, Loch Garten looked great, both at night and in the early morning.

Anyway, as normal there were plenty of exciting bits including an encounter with a friendly Pine Marten. Lots of Great Northern Divers were on Loch Ewe and at least 20 Whimbrel and a single White-tailed Eagle were also in the area. It was also good to hear so many Cuckoos. 

Below are a few of my favourite images:

The Moon Over Loch Garten
Loch Garten
Loch Garten
Brown Hare
Pine Marten
Great Northern Diver
Great Northern Diver
Ringed Plover
White Wagtail
Beinn Eighe
George & Dawn with Slioch in the Background
An Teallach
Look at The Ice Fall Below the Cornice (centre bottom of image) , Some of the Chunks are the Size of a Large Van

Friday, 1 May 2015

It' Getting Tough Out There

I've been out checking on the few remaining Corn Buntings at the western edge of Leicestershire. I was shocked to see that at my best site near Twycross the crop had changed from the traditional cereal type to Oil Seed Rape. This is not a crop which is favoured by Corn Buntings more of a cash crop for the farmer I guess. Two Corn Buntings were sitting out on top of one of the plants, but they looked as bemused as I did. Nearby at Appleby Magna I found a singing male and there was still a cereal crop, but much smaller than in the past.

At Appleby Magna a pair of both Yellow Wagtail and Grey Partridge were in residence. It was good to see these birds, as even these are getting harder to find now a days.

It's hard not to get despondent with all the changes going on at the sites I visit: Brascote Pits are filling with silt, the embankment at Croft Quarry is becoming overgrown and I'm struggling to get good views of the gulls at Shawell. On the plus side, the pair of Garganey and the two Ring Ouzels at Brascote were great local birds, so all is not lost. 

Even my trusty gulls have been letting me down lately and making it hard work to see them. However, I managed to sneak up on a group of gulls last weekend in the quarry at Cotesbach and amongst them was a Norwegian ringed Great Black-backed Gull and also a Lesser Black-backed Gull that was also ringed in Norway.

The pools in the quarry are an excellent place to see the gulls up close, but the point where I used to stand has been dug away. The quarry is strictly private and is not accessible without permission.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Brascote Comes Back to Life

It has been a while since Brascote has made the local birding headlines, but a couple of Ring Ouzels and a pair of Garganey have got it back on the map.

The Ring Ouzels first appeared on Sunday and are still present this evening. The field they are frequenting has had work done on it to drain it, so it is pleasing that it is still attracting birds despite being dryer than in the past. Tonight as well as the Ring Ouzels, six Wheatears were also in the field. Also a male White Wagtail was in the same field as the Ring Ouzels on Sunday night. 

A pair of Garganey arrived today and stayed long enough for me to finish work and see them. This is only the second record in SW Leicestershire since two were seen by George Downes at Huncote Sandpit back in 1976. I have long suspected that Brascote could host this species.

I am working on updating the SW Leics list and will post an updated version soon. We are still waiting for the 200th species for the area having been stuck on 199 for quite a while now.

Drake Garganey, Brascote Pits 14/04/15
Male and Female Garganey, Brascote Pits 14/04/15

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Shawell Update

Things haven't been well at Shawell lately despite finding a juvenile Iceland Gull and several Med Gulls during March. For some reason the number of gulls using the site has been lower than expected. Saturdays have been rubbish (no pun intended) during the last few weeks and last Saturday I gave up at dinner time.

Maybe the gulls that wintered in the area have already moved on and the ones that migrated south are yet to arrive? Maybe the lack of food waste going into landfill is starting to have an effect? Maybe the Common Buzzard that keeps launching low flying attacks on the gulls isn't helping?

I called in this afternoon for ten minutes and there were more gulls than I'd seen throughout March on the lagoons. Maybe I should stop trying to second guess whats going on. Anyway there was a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls amongst the Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which may be a result of a bit of northward migration. Both the Yellow-legged Gulls were youngsters, so I guess they followed the Lesser Black-backed Gulls north?

Second Calendar-Year Yellow-legged Gull