Sunday, 27 November 2011

Tundra comes to Elvington

After another disappointing visit to Castle Howard yesterday morning, whereby the highlight was covering the car in mud, a gratefully-received text from Russ Slack lightened my mood as it proclaimed he had found 2 Tundra Bean Geese in a field near Elvington, with 2 Pink-feet and a White-front.

After lunch, we headed up there to find a huge goose flock feeding in winter wheat near the waterworks. I soon picked up a family group of White-fronts in the nearest Greylags -nice - and then more. So, some more birds had arrived! Two birds sleeping at the back of the field looked good for the Tundras, but they were facing me, so I could not be sure. I continued to scan, picking up two Pink-footed Geese and two Egyptian Geese among the hordes of Greylags and Canadas. Failing to find any more likely candidates, I switched my attention back to the original suspects. After a few minutes, one bird suddenly stood up, revealing smart white edgings to tertials and scaps, a fairly long orange bill and best of all, bright orange legs. It's mate woke up too and soon the pair started to wander about grazing the crop. It was really interesting to compare these Tundras to the Taigas which in the last few years I have become far more familiar with. The birds were clearly smaller and shorter-necked, with smaller bills. Altogether the appearance was of a dark, brown Pink-footed Goose, with orange bare parts, and browner plumage, with the white fringing to the upperparts being quite distinctive. Certainly nothing like the big, bulky, long-necked Taigas of the Yare Valley. So the total count was c300 Greylags, 100 Canadas, 2 Tundra Bean, 2 Pink-footed 13 White-fronted Geese and 2 Egyptian Geese.

Below: Tundra Bean Geese (top) and White-fronts.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

More Fog

Went to Castle Howard Sunday morning, but annoyingly the pesky fog stayed all day so the hordes of geese I was looking for stayed just out of view in the murk. Saw a handful of Bramblings feeding on mast under the beeches and several Goldeneye.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Fog

Worked at Spurn in the morning, covering the gate for a few hours. Lots of migrants heading south early on, c100 Tree Sparrows, small parties of Chaffinches, one Brambling, and four Mistle Thrushes heading north. Two Chiffchaffs around the Warren, one of which looked very brown and grey, a bit Tristis like, but my views weren't good enough to be anywhere near sure. Barry and Toby appeared with a fine imm male Sparrowhawk at one point they'd caught, which was nice to see, apart from when Barry just let go of it without warning and it nearly took my head off!
The fog rolled in late morning and migration stopped. Had a quick walk at the point at lunch and saw the Woodlark feeding with Redwings and Chaffinches on the football pitch, looking a bit dishevelled, but a fine bird nevertheless. Lots of Robins on the road on the way back to the Warren and plenty of Blackies on the road around Kew.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

To twitch or not to twitch

It is always a shock to find several text messages, missed calls and emails on my phone late afternoon, and once I had had a look I realised that Andy Gibson had found an Isabelline Wheatear at YWT Spurn. Doh! No chance of me getting there before dark, so will just have to change my plans for the morning and head down the Humber. During the evening I began to get real pangs of doubt about going for this cracking Yorkshire rare. I had planned to go to Flamborough in the hope of finding a Sibe Accentor. Joining the crowds at Spurn certainly wouldn't help this.

Anyway, by the time I got up at 6am, I had decided that the Izzy was a bird I really should make the effort for. Shortly, I arrived at a murky Spurn and was ushered into a space by Andy, who had already texted me to say the bird was still showing along the Humber shore. I bumped into Tony Martin with his mate Mark, and we strolled up the road. We soon arrived at the scene, spotting Tim Jones and Chris Gomersall who I had planned to travel with already watching the bird. We quickly got on the bird, which was feeding energetically on the beach. What a cracker!

Even at a distance and in the early morning light, this bird looked great, very pale, upright with a stand out black alula, pale wing coverts and tertials, white fore-super and amazingly long black legs. The tail which was mostly black with white base-sides, was wagged forcibly, a bit like a Pied Wagtail. After a while, the bird took flight, looped round the line of birders on the beach and landed nearer the Warren. We moved position and the three of us on a hunch decided that if we hung way back from the line of advancing scopes, if the bird was flushed it may well return to where it started. A little while later, a car flushed the bird from between the opposing ranks of birders and sure enough, the bird looped round over the saltmarsh - underwings and general overall bird looking very pale in flight against the dark Humber mud and dropped on the shore 20 metres away, where the three of us got our closest views. Soon the other birders arrived and the Wheatear moved further up the shore again. It seemed this cat and mouse game would continue, so having had some belting views, we decided to go off and look for our own stuff.

My temporary 'scope aint that good for digiscoping! Also, I managed to bust my bins today too. What is it with me, Spurn and optics? Some awesome shots were taken by Ian Smith yesterday - here

Hordes of Redwings, Fieldfares and Blackbirds were coming in off, along with several Woodcock, a couple of Snow Bunts and a Brambling. Others reported Twite, Lap Bunts and a Short-eared Owl. A walk round the triangle was enjoyable and full of birds, but no other rares showed up. Tony and Mark headed for Sammy's Point, and I did a spell on the gate. At 11.20 I decided I best get back, so despite the fantastic birding to be had, I headed back west, to York.

 Redwings. Everywhere.