Wednesday, 30 November 2011

November 2011

I always look forward to November as in most years it delivers just as well as October and most often or not throws a real mega into the mix. Late on the 4th whilst enroute to Sheffield to see Emma, news came through of an Isabelline Wheatear at Spurn. After being trapped and with this species' past record I didn't bother getting up to arrive at first light. I was quite surprised when I woke to find it was still there. And so a quick dash NE and within 2 hours I was watching this bird feed along a selected stretch of beach where the subtle features could be noted. General birding in the area was pretty good too with the likes of Woodcock and Short-eared Owls in off the sea and also a good arrival of finches and thrushes which included 2 Twite and Brambling. On the way back I stopped in at Far Ings NR (Lincolnshire) and on a very brief visit as the weather very quickly deteriorated, I located the relatively elusive 1w Ferruginous Duck on the pool east of the entrance track.Whilst at work on the 12th, I got a jumbled message of a Greater Yellowlegs in Northumberland. I was in two minds as what to do to with this one, but as it turned out my boss realised that I wanted to be somewhere else - so let me leave. However by this stage the bird hadn't been seen for a fair few hours, so likelihood of connecting was looking very remote. I stopped off at Cresswell Ponds - no sign of it there, and as I made my way to East Chevington (where the bird was seen in the morning) in the hope it would come into roost. But instead it was refound further north at Hauxley NR, unfortunately on arrival I ran to the wrong side of the reserve where the bird could not be viewed and so frustratingly missed the bird.

I slept on Cain's floor for a first light assault on the reserve. And shortly after first light I was watching my biggest bogey bird - having missed birds in Hampshire and Cornwall, and twitching a Greenshank in Northants; all in recent years. But finally the wait was over! This 1st winter bird showed very well on occasions with a Grey Phalorope which followed it's every move. Quite a surreal experience.After spending about 5 hours watching the Greaterlegs; I decided to move on and attempt to find East Chevington. Just before I got there a drake Green-winged Teal was found and was still on view on arrival though very elusive at range. Heading back home I also pulled into Marden Quarry to pay the female type Lesser Scaup (of dubious origin) a visit.Whilst out filming with my expedition group (14th), I jammed into this Great-white Egret at Campfield Marsh (Cumbria) on the saltmarsh pool. We also found a flock of about 100,000 Starlings, and on another night several hundred thousands of Starlings were at Gretna Services. Quite a spectacle on a clear evening.

Untitled from Ashley Howe on Vimeo.

I was hoping the autumn was going to come to an end now, purely for the sake of my bank balance which is clearly lacking funds right now. But it still didn't stop me from heading out to the island of Muck (an island I've never visited before) with Olly Metcalfe and Neil Follows on the 18th via a charter boat from Mallaig. Our query; a Veery, and a very tame one at that. This bird showed extremely well in the slurry pit at Gallanach Farm (on the NW side of the island). I was thoroughly impressed with this bird and even more pleased to have obtained these photographs as it approached me to less than 10ft as I peered over the wall. My camera couldn't even focus on it!!For the past week, I have been incredibly tempted to venture down to Kent for an Eastern Black Redstart - a stunning male that has also been incredibly approachable. I couldn't quite justify the cost and mileage but when this bird was found on Holy Island (Northumberland) I just had to see it. So on the 20th, Myself, Tristan Reid, his daughter Shannon, and Pete Birkett hit the East Coast. As a safe crossing over the causeway couldn't be made till midday we tried to relocate the Greater Yellowlegs that was still kicking around. Unfortunately it couldn't be found at East Chevington, but I managed to pick out a Tundra Bean Goose amongst 200 odd White-fronted Geese on the North Pool and 3 otters were good value. Stunning views were obtained of a male Hen Harrier as we drove through West Chevington which literally flew metres above our car!! Once we got onto Holy Island we instantly connected with the Eastern Black Redstart, which performed wonderfully for a small gathered crowd as it worked the rocky shoreline for flies. The final couple of hours of the day were spent at Cresswell Pond where we finally caught up with the Greater Yellowlegs, not showing as well as it did earlier in the month. It was certainly far more active and unsettled as this leggy bird sprinted from side to side along the reedy fringes of the pond.

From then on I had to commit myself more to my uni work and also to the amounting work in the shop coming up to Christmas so birding has taken a backseat recently. I have occasionally done a relatively small stretch of the River Eden near Uni with nothing more interesting than Goosander and an increasing movement of Geese in the area.

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