Saturday, 31 May 2008

Beachy Head

I was umming and arrring about this one!! The pager mega'd just before i had to go to work...hmmm what to do aye....

i made some calls while i was at work, arranging lifts for the second i had finished, having passing off some in the mean time. 19:00 and i was with Dan and Ant again, bouncing our way along to East Sussex.

We arrived shortly after 20:30 and i got my first flight glimpse of the RIVER WARBLER immediately, followed by te bird singing. Very brief views were obtained of the bird both in flight and in vegetation, which was stalked relentlessly and never given the chance to get up and sing the way it clearly wanted to.

We last heard it sing at 21:45 in near darkness, where the bird was still fairly mobile, (dont worry we stood well back from it to avoid any further disturbance).

Sula Sgeir

Haha!! i had it really, just decided not to tell anyone ;-) (c) Ashley Howe*

*Please note that this picture was a photo of another photograph from below deck, there i've told you now, so i dont want anybodt being a twat about it!

We arrived at the outcrop 15 minutes late of schedule in thick fog, and i was feeling like death-warmed up. Combined with minor sea sickness (for the first time ever) and minimal sleep over recent days.

A rock covered in shit!! haha but what a place, the outcrop before and after the fog came again (c) Ashley Howe

To cut the long story, short. And as everybody probably knows. We didn't see the Black-browed Albatross. Nor anything else for that matter! Bonxies were plentiful, but much less Arctic behind traulers. Stormie and Manx Shearwaters occasionally...

However birds following the boat at times allowed decent photo oppertunities:

A selection of photographs from the boat, starting from the top: Fulmar (top 2), Kittiwake, Grey Seal, Bonxie, Gannet, Kittiwake (c) Ashley Howe

Back in Ullapool Harbour probably the best bird of the trip was found. An Iceland Gull, probably a second summer, as there seemed to be afew grey adult feathers appearing on the back of this individual.

This Iceland Gull surprisingly brightened up the day (c) Ashley Howe

Continuing to drive South after that, we stopped briefly at a Layby, and immediately had a male Ring Ouzel, a nice addition to the trip list.

No work required at all, just sat there for a split second and could hear it from the car. (c) Ashley Howe

Edinburgh - Ullapool

(28/05/08) An early start again, dipping Temminck's Stint in the rain at Musselburgh wasn't preferably the best start to the day. Then we went and picked up Pierre from the airport again....once we had discovered there were at least 4 different Costa Coffees in the airport....

We began our journey North, with nothing really worth of note, there were no Slav Grebes breeding at a site this year, but on a breif visit to Lochindorb on our way through. Still raining heavily throughout, a reaonable excuse not to get out the car. But we did manage to tick off a distant summer plumaged Black-throated Diver, a fishing Osprey and Red Grouse...hey at least it was something for the trip list.

Continuing further North we got to Ullapool in good time...BORING!! A brief search around the area got us Fulmar, Grey Seal, Black Guillemot, Shag. But nothing to really get any of us excited.

Eventually boarding the trip began, and after continuous briefings and safety chacks, followed by tea, we bwere well on our way. Bonxies were the only half-decent thing i saw before i went below deck for the night.

The mainland from the boat heading out into the 'Minche?' from the boat. (c) Ashley Howe

Almondell & Calderwood Country Park

(27/05/08) Since I had to get to Edinburgh to meet Keiran for the Albatross Twitch the only (cheapest and convenient) flights available were around midday. Keiran picked me up from the airport and we went straight for the Red-footed Falcon at the country park just East of Livingston. This is apparantly the 1st twitchable bird for the county.

On arrival, it took abit of walking around before we found the right viaduct....(we went to the wrong entrance duhh) but bloody hell, this is by far my best Red-foot. Showing well from the viaduct, looking down, although in a vegetated tree, rather than the obvious bare deadens that it had been showing even better till Corvids mobbed it.

it's a shame this beast wasn't in one of the dead trees, but still showed very well, appeared comfortable in this area. (c) Ashley Howe

A few drinks at the pub, Fish and Chips...and then dosing in a hostel with ten other random blokes for the night (but for only £12!!) wasn't too bad.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Shatterford, New Forest

Yesterday, I finished work at 7, and Dan was waiting at my drive, to quickly pop along to the New Forest. On arrival the 1st Summer Red-footed Falcon was sat on a low branch along side a Hobby. Decent silhouette comparisons were made, before it decided to fly over the road.
Following it across, it was re-located on another sparse pine, at closer range, where it hawked a little, then settling down again to munch on its prize. It then went and landed above some birders head, where he didn't even realised it was there, until he turnt around and the bird flew out. Flying on a big circle over our heads, and then attempting to land in the same place. Got the impression the bird wanted to roost there.

I was quite proud of myself if i do say so myself, i rather like the silhouetted shot against the sunset :D, and the picture below of the Red-footed Falcon shows abit of the orange on the breast. (c) Ashley Howe

So we left it, well alone. Besides we were being eaten alive!

Lodmoor RSPB

(18/05/08) Frustration hit me hard this morning. Another Sunday shift at the Post Office, and the pager going spaz the second i walked through the automatic doors. Little Bittern, Thrush Nightingale, Eastern Oliveacous Warbler, and Red-rumped Swallow all close together. I finished work at 14:00, argued with the family a little, and wa son the road by 15:00.

Arriving mid-afternoon, starting at Lodmoor, catching up with a few mates, for the low down. The Little Bittern hadn't been seen for a while now. While sifting through the plentiful Hirundines (well they were all House Martins), we couldn't pick out a Red-rumper. But a shout put us in the direction of the Little Bittern which shortly after appeared on top of the reeds before flying down river. This was my second within the space of a year. Unfortunately this female wasn't a shad eon the male last year at Titchwell.

You now me, nothing but photos of the highest quality of course!! But yeah, you get the picture - its a female Little Bittern (not a male as reported). (c) Ashley Howe

My Dad left me, and i had arranged to get a lift home with David, who wanted to leave early. Unfortunately we managed to miss the Nightingale and EO Warbler. Bit of a bitch to say the least!

Westleton Heath

Well this was quite an amusing trip! (10/05/08) The pager started to spaz just i was coming into Hedge End after completely a frustrating day at work. Spectacled Warbler in Suffolk. Quickly getting on the phone to Ant and Dan and within 30 minutes, was well on our way up the M3 heading in a North-Easterly direction. Time was against us considerably, but had a feeling if we didn't see the bird tonight, then we probably wouldnt see it the next morning. Nothing of late seemed to be sticking aorund long enough to twitch successfully.

Well...unfortunately we arrived just abit too late, around 21:00 where it was a little too dark to say the least. Oh well time to hit the pubs, rayyy!! As we decided to kip the night in the car, just in case, our theory was it would rude not to.

After a few, pints/smirnoffs we were pretty much....ummm....pissed. At least it made sleeping in the car abit more comfortable. Early morning soon came around, and we moved back up to the heath. A Nightingale was singing, like it was last night, a few Dartfords were knocking about. But nothing really to get us excited. Someone claimed hearing it, but nothing came of it.

The only thing that tempted my camera out the rucksack, sorry guys, i know i should ahve taken pics of the pissheads!!(c) Ashley Howe

By 07:30 we were on the road home, i got a bollocking as i had work that morning...oops...and hadn't arranged no-one to cover me..haha

Saturday, 24 May 2008


Uh was abit of a downer, having woken up well before the crack of dawn to catch a train up to Liverpool, to meet Mr. Menzie himself at c09:30. We headed off to Neumann's Flash where the 2 Black-winged Stilts were on show, the male feeding, and the female sat on the nest.

The male of the pair feeding.(c) Ashley Howe

The RSPB were on site, setting up a perimeter fence around the they really are discrete about these things, and just about disturbed everything else. Leaving the Stilts in peace, we headed North to Lytham.

Sadly after hours of searching along a wide stretch of beach, we couldnt find the Ross's Gull....aaaargh, i was pretty cheesed off about this one, as it had been there for yonks, and the one day i decide to come up, its pissed off!!

A few days later it, popped again. SHIT!! and i was incredibly tempted to give it another go....till it was found dead, sod it!

Radipole & Lodmoor RSPB, and Portland Bill

Finally...a tad of luck. Wasn't really expacting much this morning, just happening to be doing a day trip down in the Weymouth area, but when entering the area, a Whiskered Tern came up onto the pager at Radipole, i was rather pleased. This was my second now, and always a pleasure to see, just like the first.

You know what they say about big feet ;-). (c) Ashley Howe

It fed around the Buddleia Loop for a while, coming close at times, but frustratingly hard to photograph and to keep up withit bobbing about all over the place. It then departed down to the visitor centre, where it sat on a perch, at the back. This allowed me to have a few record shots of it. A Cuckoo passed through, and was one of my first spring migrants of the year, since i had come home from America.

Unfortunately these were the best i could muster up, no doubt others got better. (c) Ashley Howe

Round to Lodmoor RSPB, there was no sign of the Spoonbill, but thee was a drake Garganey being rather elusive at times. Over looking Weymouth Bay, 2 Roseate Terns were picked out at range either side of me: one by the stone Weymouth Pier and another along the white cliffs. A Great Northern Diver was also on the sea.
What is it about Radipole and Lodmoor, that make Cetti's Warblers show so well? (c) Ashley Howe

Another scan of Lodmoor revealed the Spoonbill...well just its head above some bushes.

Once having asked a few locals, and then found the place, I was watching a Hoopoe on the Rugby pitch. Not the most obliging of birds, compared to some of the others i have seen in the past, but its one of those birds i like to see annually in Britain.

Has to be up with some of the best of my previous Hoopoe shots, but a record all the same Take a peak here and here. (c) Ashley Howe

Up on Portland things, quietened down a little, with no sign of the Blue-headed Wagtail in the top fields, or the Mealy Redpoll which was typically elusive as expected. Hirundines were plentiful, but my efforts to turn one into a Red-rumper were fruitless.