Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Semipalmated Plover on Achill

Studying the weather maps on Monday 26th September I was a bit dismayed to see it was forecast to be another westerly airflow for the weekend at Spurn. However, several low pressure systems were tracking in across the Atlantic with the potential for them to drop some Yanks in looking good. I toyed with the idea of going west, so tried to find a couple of other mates to do a long weekend on Barra or South Uist but no one seemed keen (until a Kingbird turned upon Thursday 29th!). So the decision was made, I'd head to Ireland with my Dad for a long weekend of rarity hunting on Achill Island.

We got the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin in the early hours of Saturday (1st Oct) morning and were scanning Mulranny Harbour by lunchtime. No sign of anything different so we continued onto Achill, the golf course was our first port of call and we quickly flushed a Pec, a nice start. We settled in and found some accommodation.

Sunday 2nd, started with a check of the golf course, the Pec was still present, before checking several nearby decent stands of cover for passerines and a few lochs for nil return. We then pulled up to scan the machair above Achill Rovers football pitch to see 3 distant plovers on the top of the hill, quickly grabbed the scope and could see that the middle bird was a crisp juv American Goldie! Nice! Got some cracking views of it before heading back round to the golf course for the second check of the day.

juv AGP (left) with Euro Goldie (right)

Juv AGP (right) with Euro Goldie (left)

Walking in from the east side, we could see straight away there were a lot more Ringed Plover on than earlier on in the day. We picked up a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper that looked rather out of place feeding alone on the golf course. Getting better views of this we managed to get pretty close to the 60+ Ringed Plover that were also feeding on the golf course. I started looking through these, when I noticed that one of the closest birds in the flock had a very pale gape line. I'd been looking at juvenile Ringed Plover for the last couple of months at Spurn and Hatfield Moor, paying particular attention to variation in gape line and breast band. This bird instantly stuck out showing a very pale gape line and thinly connected chest band, as we were looking into a F6 SE wind I decided to phonescope a few pics and had a look at them on my phone. My Dad asked what I was photographing and I told him it was just a Ringo but had a few Semip features and put him on the bird. I blew the photos up on my phone and realised just how pale the gape line was on this bird! Having been looking at juv Ringos quite a lot in the weeks running up to this trip I knew what else to look for, pale flared super, connected chest band, slim bill with orange at base and slender structure, this bird ticked all the boxes and I started to get a little excited, but surely it wasn't actually a Semip Plover!

The bird was quite flighty and it was noticeable how dull the wing bars were in flight. We kept picking the same bird out of the flock each time they moved, now seriously thinking we might be looking at an actual Semip and having obtained on the deck and blurred flight shots, I knew we needed to hear it call. We tried our best to position ourselves down wind in order to hear it if it did call when flying, to no avail. The whole flock then lifted and moved off down the golf course and we lost the interesting looking one. We were now starting to loose the light, so after not being able to relocate the bird we started walking back towards the car, thoughts turned to a frustrating evening posting photos of the bird online and seeing what others thought of it and hoping we could locate it in the morning. However as we were coming away we noticed a few Ringed Plover feeding in the shingle on the edge of the golf course. We walked towards them, the majority of the flock got up and flew but we struggled to hear any non-Ringo calls. Then 3 birds separately got up and flew, one of which gave the the diagnostic chewee call of Semipalmated Plover. I turned to my dad to see if he heard it as well ''Did you hear that???!!! It actually went chewit!!'' adrenaline was now pumping and I quickly set the scope up again to get straight back on the bird from earlier! There it was, a Semipalmated Plover in all its subtle glory, a dream find! It then flew several more times continuing to call and I even managed to sound record it on my phone!

Sound recording available here http://www.xeno-canto.org/337236

We floated off the golf course and straight into the nearest pub where we could share news of our find with a pint of Guinness in hand! A 5th for Ireland and a bird I would always dream of finding as a teenage birder, never thought I'd actually be lucky enough to find one!

With worsening weather conditions the next day there was no sign of the bird, despite our best attempts to turn a good looking Ringed Plover into it! However the bird was again seen by visiting Irish Birders on and off until the 14th October. With some cracking photos taken by Pat Lonergan and Michael O'Briain viewed here http://www.irishbirding.com/birds/web/Display/sighting/91972/Semipalmated_Plover.html

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Glauc Fight

Back in March I was lucky enough to travel to Northern Norway to enjoy the delights of the frozen north as part of GullFest, one of the highlights of the trip were the large numbers of Glaucous Gulls present in nearly all the harbours.

The following photos were taken during GullFest 2016 (hosted by Biotope) in Vardo Harbour. A dead drake Common Eider came floating past and attracted much attention with the large gulls.

Initially claimed by a 3w Glauc, it was then claimed by a juv Glauc before an adult GBB was the winner of the final! Some rough and tumble from the Glaucs, but just a menacing stare was enough for the GBB to win!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Frustrating Bunting

Had this bunting u-turn at Spurn on 7th October with a Yellowhammer, frustratingly I couldn't subsequently relocate it along with a few others so all I have to go on are these 4 flight shots and the call seemed a little harsher than the accompanying Yellowhammer more akin to Corn Bunting.

Pro Pine Bunting features seem to be;
-pale/white ear covert pattern with smaller pale spot at rear of ear coverts
-dark/brown eye stripe and broad malar stripe
-pale throat with seemingly dark tips to throat feathers
-pale/white underparts with streaking extending down flanks
-really pale/white undertail covert area
-seems to show white area in primaries that would relate to the shafts?! (last 2 photos)
-no yellow in plumage (with thanks to Photoshop as well)
-white/pale underwing coverts

Anti Pine Bunting features seem to be;
-slightly smaller than accompanying Yellowhammer
-short tail compared to Yellowhammer
-early date?

Struggling to find any flight pictures online of Pine Bunting so if anyone knows of any, get in touch!

Opinions welcomed!

(And no I'm pretty sure it's not a Rustic Bunting looking down!)

And Yellowhammer it was with, for comparisons

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Home made phone-scoping adaptor

A few months ago I made myself a phone scoping adaptor for virtually nothing, had quite a few people ask me how I did it so thought I'd put some more detail on here

So I had an iPhone 5 with an Otterbox Defender case on it, a good case for a birder and someone that drops their phone a lot! It also conveniently comes with a 'belt clip' (yes apparently these didn't go out of fashion in the early 00's!) so I realised I could make a phone scoping adaptor and still keep my rugged case on, I cut out a section of the belt holder so the camera wasn't covered and broke the clip off it. I then got a hard lens cap cover for my scope, easy to get one off eBay or similar if you don't already have a spare/hard version (a soft plastic/rubber version won't work as it has to support the weight of the phone) 

I cut a hole in the lens cap and a bit of fiddling to line it up glued it onto the belt clip, giving me a detachable phone scoping adaptor allowing me to easily use my phone to digiscope with.

So if you already have a case for your phone and don't fancy spending £40+ then search for a belt clip for your case or get a case with a belt clip on it and you can make yourself a digiscoping adaptor for next to nothing!

I have recently upgraded to an iPhone 6 and got a Griffin Defender case, that also comes with a belt clip that I easily converted into a digiscoping adaptor 

And to prove these do work and really simply, all you have to do is stick it on the end of your scope and start taking photos/video, here's a video I took using my homemade adaptor with my iPhone 5


Just remember to stop the video before you run like a mad head to wake up the lazy Little Tern Warden!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Honey Buzzards pt.IV

Yeah I still have more pics of Honey Buzzards!

Channelling Paul Doherty's legendary image style!

So fresh and so clean!

amazing little formed in the primary bases

Eccentric moult? Feather mites?

So many Honey Buzzards at times they blocked out the sun!

very shy birds that would actively avoid humans if they saw you

look at that wing shape!