Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Birding Bonanza

Upland Updates
On Saturday 14th I headed east to cover the Cumbria/Northumberland border for a couple of hours and had a productive spell seeing a female hen harrier and a male goshawk. Another lovely sight was a flock of siskin 100 plus strong sporadically flying back and forth a sitka sprcue plantation. On the 18th and 20th Feb I had short-eared owl wing clapping on Geltsdale in v low light and a nice number of active woodcock. Long-eared owl continue to be very vocal in nocturnal hours. On the 24th I had 300 plus fieldfare going to roost in the ling heather. Black grouse cocks lekking on Geltsdale on the 25th Feb.

A Clean Slate
I spent an afternoon on the 15th Feb covering local woodland down the valley to clean out the nest boxes ready for the coming breeding season. I emptied over 15 boxes in total with 3 having wasp nests in and 4 having pied flycatcher nesting material consisting of birch bark, sheep wool and moss. The others had been occupied by great/blue tits with one nest having a solitary blue tit egg in. I managed to discover a few different feathers whilst out in the field with the best one being a primary from a tawny owl. I also collected feathers of woodpigeon, carrion crow and woodcock. 

Sublime Solway
On the 16th dad and I covered the Scots side of the Solway to see what species we could observe. An adult Mediterranean gull on the Cummertrees loop was a good start. Our geese estimates were 8000 barnacle and 4000 pink-foots in the vicinity along with 200 lapwing, 200 curlew, 200 bh gulls, 50 golden plover and 5 reed buntings. Further to the west we got an adult bewick's swan with 20 whoopers.

Large string of starlings
Overhead murmuration
Startling every time
Dad and I called into Rigg for the starling roost on the 16th Feb and were treated to a wonderful display of 300,000 birds getting shaped by four raptor species! Merlin, 2 peregrines, 3 sparrowhawks and 2 buzzards interacted with the flock and a kestrel hunting nearby. On the drive back home we got two barn owls roadside on the Hayton stretch! 

Rigg roost, peregrine pushing them up from below...
Wonderful Wader Roost
An afternoon out to the Scots side Solway with dad on the 23rd Feb. We timed the trip to co-inside with high tide on springs and added to it a force 5-6 SW wind creating a big tidal surge. Our first stop was at Newbie where we came across around 3000 oystercatchers on a high water roost! There was 6 turnstones and 7 redshank feeding around them. Some fascinating behaviour was observed while I was eating my sandwiches as a carrion crow flew over the roost at an intense speed and the waders did not react at all. Very shortly afterwards a female kestrel flew over and a small number of oystercatchers attempted to take flight before realising it was a false alarm. Minutes later a female sparrowhawk appeared overhead and the before we had seen the raptor the 3000 plus oystercatchers were in flight in a hugely frantic manner! It always fascinates me how birds know of a potential threat in a split second whether it's through communication or sharp awareness...just wonderful to watch. 

Oystercatchers leaving high water roost
Fantastic Mr Fox!
Later on the 23rd February I saw one of the most beautiful sights of the year so far just on the border to WWT Caerlaverock. It was a country red fox roaming the rough grass searching for prey. We observed it from the car and the mammal was only 100 yards away as it flushed possibly a rat in a failed attempt to catch it. What a stunning animal and I felt like the luckiest and richest person on the planet while watching it. I feel sorry for people that have such hatred and negativity when they see this super-species.  

One of my winter highlights!! A memorable sight of an icon of our countryside!
Habitat shot
Wildfowl Records
Other Wildfowl records on the 23rd were female scaup, 10,000 barnacle geese, 200 pintail, 200 pink-footed geese, 1000 knot, 500 dunlin, 200 wigeon, 400 golden plover and 300 lapwing. Sightings were around Cummertrees and WWT Caerlaverock. 

Shoveller drakes and duck...
Magic Merlin
Just as we were leaving Brow Well in admiration of the high water line and localized flooding we saw a small raptor sat in a hawthorn only 10 metres from us and as we reversed back to have a look it was a female merlin taking flight and travelling away from us!

Thanks for looking :)

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