Saturday 30 June 2012

The ultimate in urban birding!

As a good friend of David Lindo, The Urban Birder, I am very familiar with the concept of urban birding, the idea that even in our streets birds can be found. Recent rarities reflect this idea well including the recent Little Swift flying around a car park on the Wirrel, last year there was a White-throated Robin in Hartlepool and an Oriental Turtle Dove in Oxford, both having been found in urban environments. However, today I reckon we've gone one step better than even Mr. Lindo himself. We found a Skylark inside a shopping centre!

The scene of our discovery
Elis and I were concerned naturally about the well-being of this bird, so I contacted the security people to see if they would call the RSPB or RSPCA to help catch and release the bird. I assured these people that this was no sparrow and would not be able to survive under these circumstances.
Natural 'unnatural' surroundings
The security chief asked me if the bird concerned was a pipit that lived over by a well know fast food outlet, a little stunned I said it was a pipit-like bird and confirmed the location.
       "Oh we love her, our little pipit," she crooned, adding, "she's been here for ages."
Shopping Centre Lark - Alauda mallensis
Stunned by this news I listened as the lady explained that it had lived for some time on the planted beds in that area. When I returned to look more closely at the bird I found it eating some burger roll crumbs and a chip, so much for my concerns about it not surviving.
Survivor - Tucking in to burger a fries
As we watched the bird hop around in the bed, we did notice that it seemed rather stressed by the loud comings and goings of the shoppers, but it had nowhere to go.
The bird looked a little distressed at times
I can't decide whether it is better off inside that building with no predators and a constant supply of junk food, or whether it should be caught and released into more natural surroundings. It amazed me how so many people could walk past and not notice this bird, some perhaps just glancing down to see what we were photographing. However, one elderly couple stopped to have a look, eventually advising me that the bird was not a Skylark as I had mistakenly thought, but a baby thrush... oh well.

Shopping centre Skylark unnotied by passing shoppers

How it came to be there in the first place is somewhat of a mystery, my best guess is that it was a migrant that hit one of the huge windows and stunned, somehow found its way inside.
How did it get there in the first place?
Either way it was a real surprise for us and a stout reminder that indeed just about anything can turn up just about anywhere!
Elis snapping the Skylark, passers by mostly didn't turn a hair
If you are interested in the concept of urban birding and would like to find out more, then take a look at David's excellent website and follow his urban birding adventures in our cities and beyond.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Ugly ducklings

Far from being ugly, these small creatures have a decided 'ahhhh!' factor about them.

Admittedley this slightly older Pochard comes close to Anderson's moniker.
I realise of course this isn't a duck, but really, only a mother could love this little waif, so it sort of fits the title of the post.

Pacific Golden Plover revisited.

A return trip to Norfolk after the hitherto elusive Pacific Golden Plover was a case of second time lucky. The bird was on view when we arrived at the North Hide of Cley Marsh NNT reserve. Photographically that hide is not good as far as waders are concerned, the nearest bit of visible mud is already too far away from the hide for our limited equipment to get the results we would like, but enough moaning. The fact is, the bird was there if a little distant.
Pacific Golden Plover and Common Redshank
Pacific Golden Plover and Northern Lapwing
Pacific Golden Plover does not show the attenuated back end like an American
Golden Plover which has a long wing-projection. Although not sharp, one of
this bird's long tertials has been raised by the wind, showing it to be nearly as
long as the primaries.

The other interesting (not that they aren't all interesting) species was the Eurasian Spoonbill, that spent our entire stay asleep, as is typical of this species in my experience.
Eurasian Spoonbill

There were some summer plumage Dunlin, a Greenshank, lots of Redshank some Ringed Plovers and of course Lapwings. A little Gull put in a brief appearance loafing on the mud.
Dunlin, with single Common Redshank and Northern Lapwing

Greenshank with Black-headed Gulls
Elegant Pied Avocets in flight

A pair of Little Terns sat alongside a Sandwich Tern demonstarting the enormnous size difference.
Sandwich and Little Terns. Guess which are which!
Close to the hide a juvenile Pied Wagtail and a Meadow Pipit lurked in the undergrowth.
Pied Wagtail

Meadow Pipit
Mirroring the behaviour of the Willets we saw in the USA a Redshank sat atop a fence post despite the strong wind which had many species sheltering behind clumps of vegetation.
Common Redshank
The PGP bagged we had a quick lunch at the centre and went to look for Bearded Tits along the East Bank. We saw several and heard many more, and we also saw a Sacred Ibis. Obviously an escape and a bit far off, so not really that enthralling, but fun to see anyway. We also saw a couple of Little Egrets, it seems strange to think that not so long ago I twitched one of these they were so rare in the UK.
Male Bearded Tit
Sacred Ibis
Little Egret
Another bird that fails to excite is the feral Egyptian Goose. Don't get me wrong, they are attractive birds, but they really shouldn't be out on Arnold's Marsh.

Egyptian Geese

More typical of the avifauna of the north Norfolk marshes are the two Acrocephalus Warblers Sedge and Reed Warbler. The Sedge Warbler seemed to be collecting nesting material, plucking the reed heads.
Reed Warbler
Sedge Warbler
After this we then headed to one of our favourite spots, Titchwell. From a photographic perspective this place has more to offer the happy snapper, the mud and water coming right up to the hide allowing intimate photographs with pin sharp feather detail to be possible. Of course not all the birds oblige by coming that close, but there is always a chance.

Black-headed Gull

Eurasian Oystercatcher
Here we caught up with the Spotted Redshanks in summer garb, a truly lovely bird. Here are two of the six we saw.
Spotted Redshank
Spotted Redshank
A few Little Gulls were still in evidence from the other day.
Little Gull

Little Gull
We had a brief look ata female and a young Bearded Tit complementing the male we had at Cley.
Bearded Tits

We also watched the pack of Knot wheeling around above the marsh plucking up the courage to land. There are few more uplifting sights for me than these tiny birds in sychronised flight painting patterns in the sky, truly magical.
Red Knot over Titchwell Marsh
On the way home through the fields near Docking we stopped to admire this Corn Bunting, lacking in obvious beauty, its recent scarcity makes it a species to look out for.
Corn Bunting

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Pacific Golden Plover dip.

A trip to Cley in Norfolk after the reported Pacific Golden Plover. We arrived in the morning to find there had been no sign of it, so we headed for Titchwell to see what wader photos we could get stopping en route to photograph this Marsh Harrier in Cley.
Marsh Harrier over Cley

There were precious few waders of course, this being mid summer (Oh no it isn't... Oh yes it is! etc. Life is like a pantomime sometimes don't you think?).

There were some lovely Black-tailed Godwits near to the hide, and several Avocets as you'd expect. We also got a quick look at a Green Sandpiper, Elis managing to bang off one shot before is flew away.
Black-tailed Godwit
Green Sandpiper
In recent years there has bee a large summering population of Red Knot roosting at high tide in the reserve. Unseasonal in this part of the world, these birds are probably first summer, non-breeding birds for the most part who are remaining on their wintering grounds or partially migrating from southern Europe to eastern England. They are mostly in winter type plumage, but there were 4 or 5 that were sporting the red summer garb of full adults as can be seen in the photo below. They were roosting on the fresh marsh with some Bar-tailed Godwits and there was a single (as far as I could make out) Little Ringed Plover.
Roosting Red Knot with a few of Bar-tailed Godwits at the back;
some summer plumage adult knots can be seen in the throng.

On the beach we saw nothing except this unfortunate dead Gannet.
Northern Gannet

Hearing that the PGP had not been relocated we had a Cheese and Onion toastie and a cup of hot chocolate in the company of this Robin.
Eurasian Robin
We then headed for home via Weeting in an attempt to get better, closer shots of the Stone Curlews, only to find them sheltering from the bitter wind further away than before. Giving up we retuned home, to discover that the PGP appeared again at Cley late afternoon... sigh!

Sunday 24 June 2012

Stone Curlew

A trip up to the Weeting Heath NNR to see Stone Curlew was a success, even if the birds remained a little distant. A pair remained more or less on view the whole time feeding along the perimeter fence to the right of the field. Another put in a brief appearance further down the field, but soon dissappeared over the lip of the hill not to re-appear while we were there.

Elis in action at Weeting photographing a Red-legged Partridge.
The Red-legged Partridge in question

We followed this up with a visit to the Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.
Welney WWT
There we saw the famous Whooper Swan pair that remained in the UK when one of the pair damaged its wing and couldn't fly. Its partner being so bonded with it that it too stayed behind when all the others had left. The pair bond being stronger than the urge to migrate. A touching tale.
Whooper Swan with damaged right wing
The faithful mate
We saw a couple of Redshanks and Lapwings and a single Curlew here, but the highlights wader-wise were a trio of fly-through Avocets and a fly-by Black-tailed Godwit.
Black-tailed Godwit
Elis and me in the hide at Welney WWT

In the car park a Little Ringed Plover watched over three small chicks.
Anxious adult Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover chick
Parent and chick together