Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Bempton Cliffs

Having to do back to back presentations in Darlington on Tuesday and Wednesday involving a stop over I find myself leaving Darlington at 11am today for the 255 mile journey home. Now the sensible thing would be to drive straight home but as Bempton Cliffs are only a 40 mile detour I cannot miss the opportunity for a first trip to this RSPB reserve. Before I leave Darlington I find a couple of minutes to photograph the impressive Train sculpture made of Brick by artist David Mach.
On the drive into Bempton the roundabout has another large sculpture this time a Shepherd with his sheep and it's life size like the train so again I find a space to pull over and get a snap.

Shepherd of Yorkshire
Pulling into Bempton town the reserve is well signposted and a simple turn past the village pub (which has a tremendous tiled blue ceramic roof) and within a couple of minutes I'm on the reserve that has been on my destination list for a good while now but being some 240miles from home I usually find something a little more local.

The car park is free to members but £5 per car for the rest of us.
I duly oblige and I'm off through the small visitor centre and after a very short walk I'm on the cliffs looking at Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Fulmars and lot's of all species.
Throw in Tree Sparrows around the feeders and the place is alive and well worth a return at some point when I have more time (and a better lens)

Gannet Bempton Cliffs

Tree Sparrow Bempton Cliffs
Great reserve and one I'll be visiting again some time. The 240 mile drive home throws up good views of several Kestrel and Buzzard along with two Sprawks and two Red Kites from the A1...I know I just can't help myself....always on the look out!
Right! now back to work...two days email to catch up on.

Sunday, 27 May 2012


Yesterday saw me earning a few domestic brownie points: Windows cleaned, grass cut, patio cleaned,  bookcase sorted out (and it needed it) BBQ cooked etc. So today I have decided to chase the birds seen at Stodmarsh yesterday, namely White winged black Tern, Little Stint and Wood Sandpiper all of which are needed for year ticks. I collect one of the Jims (Jim senior still knackered from  4 weeks holiday in the last 5!..shocking and to think he was worried retirement might be boring). Anyway Jim and I head of down the M2 and arrive at Stodmarsh for 7am to find a full car park and after walking towards Tower Hide we find a group of birders scanning the main lake for the WWB Terns. As we approach we hear Bittern boom and whilst it's calling another pair put on a nice show circling around above us for around ten minutes.
Pair of Bittern

Lot's of Common Tern hunt over the lake but no sign of the target. The reserve is alive with warblers.....Cetti's, Sedge and Reed all seen and heard in good numbers, lot's of Heron and a few Marsh Harrier are seen before we move on to Marsh Hide. On arrival the small hide is already full with a particularly noisy group of locals but we squeeze in and before long the shout goes out from the locals "Wood Sand flying in" We get on it and although distant we're happy with the find. In this same distant pool we locate a couple of Greenshank and three Redshank all of which come and go as the Lapwings chase them and when a Marsh Harrier flies by. Only once though does the Wood Sandpiper give another glimpse as it takes flight again to a nearby pool. A shout goes up for Montagu's Harrier but as we've seen a particular light male Marsh Harrier earlier we assme the guy has just seen that bird and nobody else sees anything other than Marsh. On the walk back we locate at least five Hobby high up above the lake to round of the morning. Only got one of the trio on site yesterday but a good morning still had.  We get good numbers of male and female Cookoo on the reserve but little else of note.

We made a quick stop at Crossness on the return leg to try for Bonaparte's for Jim without joy only to get back to find somebody had it on the other side of the river.

On what looked a good day for Butterflies we saw only a few with the pictured Speckled wood the best of the small bunch. ( Also seen Large and Small White, Peacock and Red Admiral)
Back home for 1pm and in time to get the BBQ on again.

Year list now stands at 240 with only ten needed for the target of 250 I set myself this year.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

An American gull in London

I've been watching the reports of Londons second (possibly even first as the other report has it's doubters) Bonaparte's Gull over the last couple of days hoping it'll stick until I can catch up with the visitor form across the pond. Still being reported last night so as I was working local and woke early I decided to give it a go. 5am and I'm on the road to do the 13 miles to the north Thames shore at Barking. Two hours and nothing to report save a few Shelducks, Cormorants and an Oyster catcher so I'm forced to abandon the mission and get to work. I'm not too surprised as the bird has been reported as showing better on the Kent side from Cross Ness so I'm now committed to getting it later in the day.

Arriving at Cross Ness from Fairway Drive I walk past the golf centre and make my way to the water treatment outfall which I suppose is about half a mile away. Once I get nearer I find Adam W already searching but despite a couple of hopeful birds we don't pin down the Bonaparte's. Another group of four eager birders from south London arrive and tell me they have been on site all day and haven't yet seen it which gives me great encouragement as you can imagine. The group splits up and I find myself with one of the south London guys and as I say I think I have it he turns to say the same but before we can confirm the detail to our satisfaction the bird drifts behind the jetty out of view. Excited by the brief "possible" he calls the others back and we spend the next half an hour waiting for another view from the otherside of the jetty but it doesn't appear. As the tide comes in the Black Headed Gulls start to drop in and sit on the river either side of the jetty and after watching and searching and scanning and scanning nothing appears apart from a couple of juvenile Black Heads. I decide it's time to leave and Adam agrees so we make the walk back together and just as we reach the golf course centre the sea wall becomes low enough again to look over so we decide on one final look and find a large group of Black Heads drifting past. I find what I think looks a good bird in the bins and ask Adam to take a look in his scope and BINGO! WE HAVE A LIFER! The Bonaparte's Gull is drifting past...more slender than Black Heads, A distinct egg shaped black spot behind the ear and that give away small black bill. I walked back to the other group and the walk now feels like over a mile but they have moved on so I posted it and hoped they'd pick it up. Another group of locals turn up just as a small boat puts all the birds up. A difficult twitch but a good learning curve to have to find it. Nice to meet Adam and enjoyed his company on the twitch. He actually lives near me and supports the Arsenal, small world! 239 now on the year list with 11 left to achieve the target set of 250.....I'm starting to think I'll get there.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Wilstone Reservoir

Decided on a stop off at Wilstone tonight. The reservoir has a small car park which has a few steps taking you up to view the water. As soon as I reach the top I'm scanning the hoards of Common Tern and soon locate the years first Black Tern flying with them. The short walk to the hide reveals Great Crested Grebe, ducks and Geese along with the usual woodland birds and lot's of Swift. From the Hide I get good views of the two Hobby hawking and a Kingfisher flies by. A Sprawk darts across infront of the hide and puts the Lapwings up before a Common Buzzard flies through with a Carrion Crow making sure it doesn't get too comfortable in the area. The Crow makes an attempt to raid the Terns nests but they group together to mob him and he leaves without reward. Reed and Sedge Warbler call but no sound of the Savi's that was reported here this morning.  A short drive away is Star Top End Reservoir and a quick stop here gives me the Grey Heron pictured below along with Pied, Grey and Yellow Wagtail but little else of note. I have moved one closer to the target and find myself needing just 12 now to hit the target of 250 different birds this year. The target is taking me to some wonderful places and with the recent influx of some great birds I'm confident that I can find the missing dozen.
Great Crested Grebe

Common Tern

Grey Heron

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Chasing Gold

An early start today leaving home at 5.30am for the hour trip up the M11 to Lakenheath and allowing for Coffee at the Wild Bean we're parked up by 6.35am and within a couple of minutes we're watching a Barn Owl hunting along the rivers edge. Common Tern hawk the lake with the swifts, swallows and martins. Grebes, Swans and a few of the more common ducks are already up and about too. Sedge, Reed and Cetis Warblers are in full song as are the Reed Buntings. As we walk along the river bank a Marsh Harrier drifts across carrying a small bird in it's talons and the Barn Owl rises with it's catch. ( A small vole) We're listening for Grasshopper Warbler but apart from one very short blast they dissapointed. A Golden Oriole gave a very brief call from the first Poplar plantation. Further along the bank and as I scan the reeds where some Greylags are feeding I locate two Common Cranes and they give us great views. Moving on past plantation two and three and we reach the view point. A Hobby is perched on the old barn and gives terrific scope views as it stays sitting for an hour or more waiting to steal a meal when the Barn Owl returns. Bearded Tits ping all around us and a few come to the top of the reeds for good views. A Bittern booms and must be really close to us but we're unable to see it in the reed bed. As we track back to plantation three we turn our attention back to the target bird...Golden Oriole! After fifteen minutes or so waiting and listening a fellow birder gives a shout and we get on a male Oriole in flight from plantation two towards us at plantation three. The bird is now calling constantly in search of a female to breed with and this helps us locate it in the poplars although I struggle until Jimmy allows me and several other grateful birders to get on the end of his scope to view what is a stunning Golden male bird and one lucky guy that hasn't seen one before is especially pleased as he gets on just in time to bag a lifer. The bird flies back to the second plantation and we head off down the track at which point a Bittern flies over our heads and another Marsh Harrier drifts by.
A dark dove flies across and into the trees but I struggle to confirm Turtle or Collared.
The Oriole gives us another view in flight to round off a Golden morning in Suffolk.
Possible Gropper and Turtle Dove remain just that and await ticks another day but the Oriole is in the bag and on the list.
13 to go!
An hours drive home with the Jims both snoring most of the way until the Boss woke them with a blast of Born in the USA.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A few more pictures from the scotland trip

Ben Nevis range
Water falls
Red Deer
Loch Garton
Adnamurchan Bay
Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis
Laggan Dam

Thursday, 17 May 2012


I've been wanting to visit Scotland for as long as I could remember so with a few days off work I planned a trip and the Jim's wanted a peace of it too. Flights from Stanstead and a hire car together with a log cabin under Ben Nevis in Roybridge and we're all set. Leavng Sunday lunchtime and returning Wednesday evening we have a full itenary and with the help of Gordon Hamlett's guide we're all set.
The Jims at the cabin
Day 1: After a one hour smooth on time Easyjet flight we're in Glasgow for 1pm. A small challenge getting the hire car but we're on the road by 1.30pm and make the 2 hour picturesque drive up the side of Loch Lomond through Glencoe and Fort William and we're in Roybridge for 4pm(ish). It rained hard all the way which limited the birding opportunity some. As I get out of the car I notice a crow outside the cabin and with the aid of my bins' I can see it's a Hoody. This bird may not be uncommon in Scotland but it's been on my shopping list for years and I'm delighted to finally add it to my lifelist as are the Jim's.
We get unpacked and head off for a trip up the valley. The scenery is magical as we drive along the Ben Nevis range. A few miles up the road and we've decided it's time to eat so do a U turn and head for a local pub. On the return journey I spot a large bird in flight on the road side and call it "BLACK GROUSE!" we pull into the next lay by and scan the fields only to fnd four males displaying in the distance. A great find and another day one tick on both life and year lists for all three of us. We head off to the pub for a celebratory pint and dinner.

Day 2: We had a strange night with little sleep....excitement more than anything. We're all up before 5am and do a little garden birding as we spot Hooded Crow, Yellow Hammer, Whitethroat, Mipit, Tits and Finches from the kitchen window. I sort out the scrambled eggs for breakfast and we agree the route for the day. At 6.30am we're on the Corran Ferry some 10 miles south of Roybridge. We've scanned for Black Guillemot but nothing shows at all on Loch Linnhe. We make the short (£7) journey across and then it's off round the coast stopping along the way to see four Eiders sleeping on rocks at our first stop just two miles in, Seals are also showing on the rocks here.
Corran Ferry
Again the scenery is fantastic as we head out to Ardnamurchan which is the most western part of Britains mainland and is reached by miles of single track road but wow is it a great drive. Our second stop is at the new bird hide at Ardery. We get Herons, Mergansers, Shags and seals here but with the weather improving the midges are up and active so we head back to the car.
We're told of a local Eagle nest over a cup of tea and before long we're sitting in a car park watching the nest location. Two hours pass with nothing but sheep and Wheatear then Jimmy shouts "EAGLE"
Sea Eagle
We get on it and it gives us really goood views and as we're at a Golden Eagle nest we're assuming we have a Goldie but as it comes closer and then closer until it's eventually flying low above us we can all see that  it is in fact a Sea Eagle that's drifted over from Mull. Wow another great life tick!
Satisfied we continue on to the Lighthouse at Ardnamurchan (easy for you to say).
I lose the boys and as they scan the sea I'm climbing rocks to get nearer the small bay on the otherside of the lighthouse. Here I'm surrounded by diving Gannets and there's thousands of Manx Shearwaters passing. I pick out a Black Guillemot but it dives and is hard to relocate. Whilst scanning for it I see a fin drifting through the bay, then another behind it. As I focus in on it I realise I have a 30ft Basking Shark infront of me and I find myself having to race to the boys to let them know. Before long we're all on it again and get good views as it's head comes out of the water for a while but we fail to get back on the Black Guillemot though.
As we head home through Loch Shiel I see another large raptor heading towards us overhead. As it closes in on us we can all see it's an Osprey and it gives a show as it dives to catch a fish before flying off into the hills to eat it.
Common Gull
We head back round to Fort William and after refuelling at the golden arch we find ourselves watching Fort William harbour where we get close views of Hooded Crow, Common Gull and Mergansers again.
Day 3: Today we're going to try for Capercaillie at Loch Garton so we're off before 5am.
We decide to stop at Laggan Dam and try for Twite which proves a good move as we're quickly onto the song and before long we have the bird on our year list and the views over the Nevis range from here are spectacular too. We arrive at Loch Garton for around 6.30am and pay the £1 fee as the guide tells us a male is showing well this morning. As we approach the hide people are exiting and saying that the bird has just flown. Now that's birding! We sit tight until they throw us out at 8.30am with no more sightings.....not even a call!.
Red Squirrel
We did bag Red Squirrel here and had good views of the Ospreys too along with Siskin, Redpol and what seemed like the world population of Chaffinch, we had Gt Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders close in too.  
As the reserve closes between 8.30am and 10am we decide to head off into Abernethy Forest in search of the bird that's top of my list. We hear strange noises over head and despite seeing loads of divers before we've never heard them calling as they're usually at sea and the waves stop the call carrying. Here on a small Lochen in the forest the call travels well as three Red Throated Divers drop in and give good views, Common Sandpipers move along the shore too.I can hear Crested Tits around  and think I've got one only  to be a Coal Tit (nice little bird but not the target). A short while later I'm on another and this time it's Bingo! CRESTED TIT! I shout and manage to get the Jim's on it. We high five and feel the need for a group hug. Target bagged and another lifer for all three of us!
We hear Crossbills here too but I'm not sure if any are Scottish and need to do more work before I can ID that one.
Back on the reserve at 10am and after another hour and no Capers we decide to move on and head up to Moray Firth in search of a White Billed Diver that's been wintering there. Blimey it's cold!
We scan and we scan and we scan but all we get is a Red Throated Diver and  a couple of Shags although a Merlin entertains briefly.After tow hours scanning it's time to leave and we head back down the road.
After some navigational difficulty we locate Findhorn Valley. Another long single track road takes us to a small car park where we park up and scan the hill tops. Peregrine, Merlin and Buzzard all show before the shout comes up....EAGLES!
Two large black bars in the distance and with the help of 2.5k worth of Scope we can see they are Golden Eagles. WOW! before we leave we bag five in all along with good views of some of the local Red Deer.
A successful day and we head back down the road stopping for a Fish supper in Aviemore.
Knackered but rewarded we head home but not before seeing Woodcock and a female Black Grouse on the road.
Add to this the Whinchat and Red Grouse and our list is growing nicely.

Findhorn Valley
Commando Memorial
Day 4: We decide to do a small local tour today. Starting at the local Commando Memorial we head off around the local patch taking in Allt Mhuic in search of butterfly as it's a good spot for Chequered Skipper but in two hours here we didn't see a single butterfly. We did get good Tree Pipit and Cuckoo though along with Dipper.
Further round and we find Neptunes Staircase. A nice site giving good views across to Ben Nevis again.
Neptunes Staircase

Now we couldn't resist another stop at Fort William so we grab some supper and sit at the harbour. Before long we've bagged at least 15 Goosander, a Merganser lot's of Eider and then two Otters playing infront of us. Another good stop off.
Now we're starting to head south towards Glasgow for the flight home and we decide to give the Corran Ferry area of Loch Linnhe another go to see if we can get a better look at Black Guillemot.
As we scan the loch I pick out a small black bird with a short neck (so not shag or diver) and as I'm trying to ID it hoping it's a Guillemot it dives and again we're struggling to relocate it before Jimmy sees it flying low across the water infront of us. It lands and we get on it to see that it is indeed a Black Guillemot. Jim senior struggles to get on it but eventually he manages and he too can add it to his lists. Another great stop and more good advise from the pages of Gordons guide.
Time for one last stop of and I find Spotted Flycatcher for the Jims which pleases them as they have another year tick from the trip.
Back at Glasgow airport for 5.30pm. Caffeine fix from Starbucks and after another smooth on time Easy jet flight i'm sitting at home in Essex before 8.45pm.
Great trip, good birding, lot's of other wildlife and the scenery is just magical.
Will I go back? you bet I will and it won't be too long waiting this time.
14 BIRDS NOW REQUIRED TO ACHIEVE WHAT SEEMED IMPOSSIBLE AT THE START OF THE YEAR.  Will I make 250?  I need two birds a month which has to be possible although as I sit typing this I'm recovering from another dip as I missed the Melodious Warbler in Leyton today.
Onwards and Upwards though and here's to the next tick. Trip list is 123 in four days.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Friday 11th May. Back to Essex

Packed up early, car washed and hoovered, breakfast made and eaten and we're off. I've been following the news on Birdguides that the Squacco Heron has moved from Chew Valley to Blagdon Lakes but it's not reported this morning. Despite this I feel the need to take the 30 mile detour once I'm over the bridge. As we drive through Bristol we can't believe the beauty of the Clifton Suspension bridge..what a sight!.

We head for Blagdon as all I know is the bird has been seen at the top end of Blagdon lake.
I can see the lake but it takes a while to find a route in. Once in I find the office and ask the attendant if the Heron has been seen to which he replies "no not today do you want a permit?" now not being tight but I'm thinking I'm here to see the bird he's just told me isn't here and now he wants money.
Any way I pay up and drive the car round to the hide at the top end of the lake where the bird has been seen for a few days. There's a guy with bins in hand and he tells me he's seen it fly into the Willows near by so I plot up and wait. Suzanne makes the coffee as this is now our half way break. An hour later and I'm getting itchy feet. A little crowd has started to gather so I decide to have one last walk along the path and then it moves. I stick the promised arm in the air and the crowd start to walk in my direction as we're all rewarded by terrific views of a terrific bird. When feeding in the meadow the bird appears very brown but when it takes a short flight it reveals that it's wings are pure white and just the body is brown.
I got a distant shot to reflect this.

Great bird and my 226th of the year. 24 NOW REQUIRED FOR MY QUEST TO HIT 250 THIS YEAR.
Off to Scotland on Sunday with the boys with 14 birds on the target list (be happy with ten of them)

But trust me I know that last 24 are going to be hard to find!
Mind you it's taking me to some great places trying.

Squacco Heron Blagdon Lake

10th May and back to Dinas

The weather is bad. Rained heavy all night and the rivers are high.
Suzanne suggests we head back to Dinas so we pack up some sarnies fill the flask and we're off in the drizzle again. An hours drive with views of countless rivers bursting their banks and we're sitting in the car park. I'm thinking should I sit and watch from the car?.it's really wet! A couple pull up and get out..they put on wellies, water proofs long Barbour coats and big Barbour hats and off they go into the hills. I'm not feeling it and having now had Pied and Spotted Flycatcher (225) from the car I'm reluctant to move. After an hour they return and look sodden despite having the best wet gear money can buy....the women says she's off to the pub but if she could see her face and hair she'd not be going near a pub for sure...make up running down her boat and her barnet looking like a birds nest she really needed to go and lie in a hot bath nothing else!.
Another group arrive, five old dears in two cars but all together. They're staying in Newcastle Emlyn near Cardigan and after half an hour getting themselves ready they head off into the reserve and I have to admire their determination as they're out there over an hour but are not impressed when I tell them I've had Redstart, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Red Kite, Peregrine and Cuckoo from the comfort of the car.

Shortly after I see a large hawk drifting over and I'm saying Sprawk but it's huge and I think it's probably Goshawk.

A wet day but we enjoyed sitting together and seeing what we saw.

Friday, 11 May 2012

9th May Road trip around Pembrokeshire

The Blue Lagoon Abereiddy
It's wet again so we pack up a picnic and decide on a road trip. Starting at Cardigan I take a short walk round Teiffi Marsh before the rain gets too drizzly and puts me back in the car. From Cardigan to Fishguard and then along the coast roads. We take in Abercastle which is very scenic, then on to Treflin with it's small waterfall to the beach and old ruins of a mill. Then onto the Blue Lagoon at Abereiddi.
This is an old slate quarry on the coast and it's left a deep lagoon. Fulmars nest hear and it's beautiful.
St Brides
Down the coast a little further and we're at St Brides which is really pretty. Small beach, small church and just a great place to sit and watch the world. Suzanne got her book out as I headed off for a short walk in the drizzle. I'll be coming back to St Brides on a better day for sure. We take a quick drive to Dale and then head back to Manorbier for a night of Britains got Talent, Pizza and White Wine....lovely!

Monday 7th May: Owls at Shute

A trip to Fishguard today taking in Strumble head.
Strumble Head Lighthouse
The sky is grey and the air is wet but still very scenic. Gannets and Porpoise from the watch point. Lot's of Wheatear in the fields but very windy so we head back into town and pick up some lunch which we decide to picnic at Fishguard fort which gives great views over the harbour.

Herring Gulls all around and the usual Corvids and then a close encounter with a Raven which was a real highlight. We crossed the hills and stopped at a Burial Mound which happens to be the biggest in Wales .
Terrific views over the hills and again Raven "bark" as they scan the valleys.

Back at Shute and Suzannes see the Barn Owl fly past the window as she shouts "Owl" I catch it through the kitchen window but it's being chased by Crows so doesn't hang about.
In the evening we have bats over the pond....I don't know bats but one small  black one and one large brown one with black wings.

I'm sitting outside sipping wine (well padded up with jumper and coat on) and I hear a Tawny make one short call before it flies through the garden and into the churchyard. (224)

Sunday 6th May: DINAS RSPB

This has to be my favourite RSPB reserve. An ancient woodland habitat with fast flowing rivers.
Dinas RSPB
I've walked the dog on the beach, cooked the wifes breakfast and we're off nice and early. The wife likes Dinas too so that's a real bonus. The boys have decided to have a day here before the drive back to Essex so we meet on the way. The weather again is fantastic and that is unusual as it usually rains here. About an hours drive from Manorbier through Llandovery to Dinas but well worth the effort. On arrival I bag Pied Flycatcher without leaving the car. (220) A red Kite soars over my head. We take the boardwalk though the woodland and Pied Flycatcher are all around. The usual Nuthatch, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Goldcrest, Wren etc all oblige with good views before a pair a Common Sandpipers drop into the stream. White, Pied and Grey Wagtail all show and a Squirrel entertains as it goes in and out of a hole on a tree.

Grey Squirrel

We head round to the stream and Suzanne has seen Redstarts real close while sitting on the bench. We take a while to see if they return but get Dipper instead. I locate a Tree Pipit (221) and get Jim on it, he's well pleased as this is a lifer for him.  We do get good views of Redstart (222)and we can hear Wood Warbler in the trees although everything that shows is either Willow or Chiffchaff to our frustration. Raven and Buzzard soar over head in the valley.

I take a walk back to the car for a coffee break leaving Rob plotted up waiting for Dipper and the Jims doing all they can to get sight of Wood Warbler. On the boardwalk Suzanne spots a SBJ and says "that's not what they're after is it?" And of course it is and I get great views of Wood Warbler. (223) Then I find another Tree Pipit sitting out in the open in a small bush near the car park giving me great views in good light...happy days!. As I'm sipping coffee four Redstart make an appearance and a Marsh Tit comes to the feeder (I put seed out earlier) We debate with the locals Marsh - Willlow? but leave undecided only for Rob to do the work later to establish it was Marsh so no new tick there. A pair of Peregrine fly past over our heads..two really big birds!.
So we say our goodbyes to the boys and as they head home to sunny Essex me and Suzanne head back to Shute for supper. A nice Orange tip dances around the garden as we pull in followed by Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Large White. The sun appears to have woken a few Butterflies at last.

As I'm wandering around the garden I spot a Barn Owl by the pond but it sees me as quick as I see it and with a short stop on the fence it's off. Raven, Buzzard and Sprawk all make fly overs before I head in for a much needed coffee.

A great Days birding and if you like your birds you really should put Dinas RSPB on your annual pilgrimage list.

Saturday 5th May : SKOMER ISLAND

I'm up early and pick up the boys before 6am in Pembroke. A 75p toll and 15 miles of country lanes and we're in the car park at Martins Haven before 6.30am. We have the Deer Park to ourselves and whilst putting on my coat I pick up 18 Chough feeding on the steps to the park (217) The boys scope up quick and enjoy good views.  We head off down the farm track so as not to disturb the Chough and start counting Wheatear. (They are everywhere and the day count gets boring once past 100) Whitethroat and Linnet entertain along the hedge line. More Shag on the sea once we get to the gate which the boys are pleased with. A pair of noisy Raven "bark" across the headland and settle at Woolpack point where by now there are 22 Chough feeding. Lot's of Auks passing by and a single Manx Shearwater crosses towards the island. (lost or late it shouldn't be out on the sea but it was) (218)
Stonechat, Mipit, Gannet, Fulmar, H.gull, LBB gull and GBB gull all show on the trip across the park.
We check on the boat and are told it'll be a late call if it goes or not with the expected winds but they do decide to try and at 10am we've paid our £20 each (£10 boat and £10 landing fee) and we're making the 15 minute boat trip to SKOMER Island. On arrival we go through the usual list of do's and don't with the warden and then it's off to the farm to check for SEO etc. At this time of the year the owls are on eggs so not very active and we make a quick call to move on. There's a few warblers about as he head down the valley but nothing too exciting. We reach the far side and find several Seals on the rocks and Buzzard soaring out at sea. Together with Puffin (219) Razorbill and Guillemot all rafting and Gannets diving. (Good views out to to Gannetry that is Grassholm) We head towards the Wick and the place is alive with Fulmar, Kittiwake and Auks all taking their place up the cliff edge with Puffins entertaining on the ground at our feet and at times walking right between our legs. Great birds that you just can't get enough off.


Whilst at the Wick I see two LBB Gull fighting. One gets the other turned and pinned and shows a superior strength that looks like it could end badly for the other gull as it holds it down by the beak for over ten minutes with the colony all gathering and calling but I'm pleased to say it did eventually let go and they parted. Just surprised me that two birds that appeared to be the same size could vary so much in terms of strength.
The Dale Princess
Satisfied we head back to the boat ramp and board. The "old man" takes a tumble as a wave hits the boat and that's before we've even set off. Proper choppy ride back though and we all got a good soaking but you can't complain after five weeks of rain we get on Skomer with a Blue sky day..that's a blessing.

A quick stop at Martin Sands reserve for Glossy Ibis and a good days birding is done.

Friday 4th May.....down to Shute for a week

Shute Cottage Manorbier
Made the 4 hour drive to Pembrokeshire today. (slight detour only to dip at Chew Valley on the Squacco Heron but a lovely place all the same and great views of Long Tailed Duck and thousands of Hirundines) Arrived mid afternoon and the cottage looks great again. Tucked away between the Castle and the Church with no phone signal and no internet it's a real retreat. The dog asks for a walk to the beach so I oblige before we take a drive to Skrinkle Haven in the evening and I quickly bag Fulmar and Shag for year ticks. (216) Lot's of Gannet and Porpoise about. Jackdaws are still nesting in the cottage chimney and we're treated to Buzzard and Raven over the garden too. The Gt. Spot Woodpeckers are still in and out of the garden as are Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Wren, Blackcap etc.
Meeting up with the boys in the morning for our annual trip to Skomer Island....let's hope the boat goes!