Tuesday, 6 November 2012

November 2012

With Waxwings arriving in off the North Sea, it didn't take long before the first few turned up in Carlisle just up the road from me. These were the first I had seen all year, but were particularly mobile as I followed them around the Kingstown Industrial Estate on the 1st of the month.

Later that day I headed up to Solway to scan the wintering Barnacles and Golden Plover flocks where respective vagrant Canada Geese and American counterparts had previously been seen. Unfortunately the flocks were too distant at low tide for closer scrutiny but the Great-white Egret was still frequenting the saltmarsh pool at Campfield Marsh and the two regular leucistic Barnacle Geese could easily be picked out at range.
Another visit the next day and a similar story; the geese were even further away, the Great-white Egret was still in situ but the Golden Plover were just about within range to sift through. I estimated the flock to be between 2000-3000 strong, possibly more so it took a good couple of hours before I eventually managed to pick out the more advanced American Golden Plover in Moricombe Bay. This bird is still moulting into winter plumage with a reasonable amount of black still on the breast and belly making it much easier to pick out. Though I think I'll be revisiting next week in the hope the flocks return to the sheep fields by Cardurnock and show considerably better; and maybe I'll be able to pick out the other...
Over the weekend, I once again went east with Tristan and Peter. First stop was Seaburn to call into an unseasonal visitor; a juvenile Bee-eater. A bird you certainly wouldn't expect to see in November with frost on the ground and 2 Waxwings trilling over the top; it was quite a peculiar sight. But still the Bee-eater performed well for us, sitting on aerials and flying low overhead to catch a surprisingly good number of wasps to feed on (though I hope it departs to the south soon, back to the continent and doesn't succumb to an unfortunate fate like others, that have arrived so late in the year).
It was quite a leisurely afternoon really, we had lunch at Whitburn followed by a stroll around the ringing plantation. Peter had a Yellow-brow whilst Tristan and I saw very little besides an adult winter Mediterranean Gull up the road. The late afternoon was spent a little further inland at Houghton-Le-Spring. Visibility was poor as the place was shrouded in thick fog but we still spent an hour or so here searching for a Little Bunting. The bird had apparently been frequenting a hawthorn hedge backing onto a sewage works, but was typically elusive and disappeared for hours at a time. Luckily I stumbled upon the bird feeding in long grass just off the beaten track, it continued to feed and approached the small gathered crowd to within 15 feet before flying up into the hedge and lost to view in the fog, 'tick'-ing as it went. It was only the second Little Bunting I have seen and gave much more prolonged and satisfying views than the first.
From this time of the month onwards the weather deteriorated; heavily overcast and rain became an almost constant fixture so another trip up onto the Solway unfortunately didn't materialise before I headed off to the Isle of Mull with Cain Scrimgeour and Ewan Miles to begin filming for my final media project. Again the weather was less than ideal but wind remained calm which meant I could continue filming; the trip was a general success with most the target species to film ticked off including Otter, where we found no fewer than 6 individuals over three days but only 3 allowed us to stalk them to get good footage. Other highlights included a brief Aurora encounter, White-tailed Eagles and a family of Golden Eagles - the juvenile watched reasonably close hunting rabbits was incredible! I also found a Firecrest in the Tobermory car park - it was literally the first bird I clapped eyes on on the island so I was abit blasé when pointing it out to the others. Turns out though its a first for Mull!! We also found a few small groups of Waxwing on the island. I shall add some footage to due course.

Returning to Cumbria from Mull on the 16th, I then headed back south to Hampshire on the 17th with a few detours not far off the motorway to include various birds. First stop was at dawn for the currently resident Lesser Yellowlegs (and Wood Sandpiper) at Aldcliffe Marsh, Lancashire. Nice views in terrible weather, but this is by far the latest Wood Sandpiper I've ever seen in Britain. Next stop was Middleton Lakes in Staffordshire for a 1w White-rumped Sandpiper; the weather had slightly improved but this bird was mostly mobile and distant so again no (respectable) photos. Rather embarrassingly though, this was only my second White-rumped Sand in Britain! Leaving here much later than expected I then had to put my foot down to get to Pagham Harbour (West Sussex) before the light began to go. I must admit I had been playing the Hooded Merganser quite cool having not twitched it from Carlisle - I simply couldn't justify it and then leaving it till last thing on the 17th was perhaps too cool as on arrival there was no sign. Frustratingly it hadn't been seen all afternoon but I began scanning the harbour before over hearing a conversation that the bird had been seen in the NW corner of the harbour. I dashed over there and scanned to no prevail and by now the sun was pretty low in the sky.

About to cut my losses I received an anonymous call to which I wasn't going to answer but luckily did, it was Dave Wallace and he was watching the Merg back by the sluice gates on the North Wall!! I dashed over there as quick as I could - indeed I ran for it and even then only watched it amongst Wigeon for a matter of minutes, diving occasionally before taking off on its own. I watched it in my scope till it was literally a speck in the sky heading in a NW direction - it hasn't been seen since! Judging by the limited white in the wings this bird is probably a first-winter, and also a female by the rather dull eye colour. Males tend to have a pale iris. I'm also quite optimistic about this bird, it appears to have turned up at a decent time of year, fully winged, unringed etc, so hopefully the BBRC will have no problem accepting this bird knowing they've got form for doing so already.
Still playing catch-up in Hampshire I was then down Calshot spit (Hampshire) shortly after first light on the 18th for a long-awaited grounded Richard's Pipit in the county. Nearly all are flyovers from the Pennington/Keyhaven area and Barton-on-sea during the autumn. Surprisingly this bird showed well commuting between the SE corner of the power station and the dog walkers field near the beach huts, before settling at the latter. Later in the morning it was reported to have flown out over The Solent and subsequently hasn't been seen since. A Black-necked Grebe was feeding offshore. The remainder of the month was rather quiet on the birding front where birding was confined to the marshes (Pennington and Needs Ore) with nothing out the ordinary to report besides a Black-throated Diver from the former on the 25th and a Firecrest from the latter on 27th.

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