Saturday, 30 April 2011

RSPB Conwy

The male common scoter that has been here since the 21st seems to be in no hurry to leave. It favours the island nearest the Carneddau Hide, but if it's out of view from there, try from Benarth Hide.

Pick of this morning's other sightings were 2 whimbrels (RobS), little ringed plover, black-tailed godwits, male goldeneye, siskin, and a red kite over Glan Conwy. There were many more swifts and house martins than we've yet seen at the reserve.

Willow Warbler with Chiff-chaff bits

With the current topic being aberrant or odd birds, I thought I'd throw in an interesting Willow Warbler into the mix.
A bird was singing along Millionnaire's Row, Great orme this morning and although obviously a Willow Warbler it kept throwing Chiff-chaff bits in. It looked like and was a Willow warbler.
There is a recording here -

Try to ignore the noisy Blackcap. The chiff chaff bits can be heard at the end of the first and second Willow Warler phrase, while in the third Willow warbler phrase, it sings a couple of chiff-chaffs in the middle.
Here is a sonogram showing where it sings it. I've pointed the red arrow to the Chiff-chaff bits, and the blue lines generally show the Willow warbler phrase - the rest is Blackcap, Gulls, an easterly wind and me breathing noise. Is this is what is classed as a mixed singer?

Click on sonogram for larger image.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Aberant Swallow

Whilst doing more Atlas tetrads this AM somewhere south-east of Llanrhuddlad I came across this female type washed out Barn Swallow. The reddish bits were very pale and washed out and the blue head bits were more browny. I know we get some "Portlandica" subadult terns at Cemlyn, is this a rare sub-adult plumage for Swallow or is it just simply an aberation?

Probably the latter.

Conwy RSPB

Few nice bits today on the reserve.  Plenty Common Whitethroats, 1-2 Lessers, 8+ singing Blackcap, 5 Dunlin, 2 Sandwich Tern, Osprey, 2 LRP.
 Less White giving it welly
 Ringed reed bunt.  Didnt realise till I looked at the pics and zoomed in as much as poss but it doesnt look like the top line reads 'British', to me it looks to start NA or NE? Netherlands poss? see below- needs photoshop wizkid or those dudes off CSI Miami.
 Displaying sedgey.
 Osprey over this evening

Dirty boy

Cantilans this time.....moltoni next???

After last week's Eastern Subalpine Warbler (S.c.albistriata) was found in the field and then avoided the nets and the trap in the obs garden, a male Western Subalpine Warbler was found in the trap whilst trying to catch a Sedge warbler this morning. 

Western Subalpine Warbler (c) Steve Stansfield

The red throat on the bird is less saturated and more salmony coloured than the eastern bird last week which was deeper port wine coloured; in addition the moustacial stripe is weaker and the colour on the underside extends onto the belly and flanks, see Ben's image below of the eastern for comparison. 
Eastern Subalpine Warbler (c) Ben Porter (20 April 2011)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Ringed Plovers - hiaticula and psammodrama

Good numbers of Ringed Plovers are passing through at the moment with I've seen sizable flocks seen at Horton's Nose, Rhyl (30+) and Ynys las, Ceredigion (60+). I've been interested in the subtle differences in plumages between the birds, with some being big, pale and in full breeding attire, while others are smaller, slimmer, darker and rather grubby looking (winter plumage / moulting). According to the date (April / May), Ringed Plovers passing through Wales at this time could be (or even should be) on their way to northern Europe i.e. feno-scandanavia, making them of the race 'psammadrama'. They use to be known as 'tundrae' Ringed Plover, but birds now known by this name are thought be belong to the 'eastern' races of Ringed Plover.

A nominate British breeding 'hiaticula' Ringed Plover in front of a presumed 1st w Scandanavian 'psammodrama' Ringed Plover

Our nominate race 'hiaticula' should be on their breeding grounds by now and a number of examples were seen on the beaches of mid wales and along the eastern Conwy coast. They are fairly bulky, pale looking birds and will have moulted into their present plumage last August / September.

A fairly standard nominate bird - bulky, pale and in full breeding atire.

The race 'psammadrama' on the other hand will either still be in winter plumage or moulting into summer as they go through a complete body moult in spring (unlike our nominate race). These birds tend to be slightly smaller, slimmer and darker.

A presumed 'northern' Ringed Plover - smaller, sleeker and darker than our nominate. Also signs of spring moult - forehead and breast band.

A nominate (hiaticula) Ringed Plover in the forground (out of focus but still enough to see features), with two presumed northern 'psammadrama' Ringed Plover in the background - the left hand bird is still in winter plumage (brown where we would expect black and bill is just starting to change to orange).

I watched the birds very early in the mornings so the pictures are not good at all, but hopefully you will see what I'm trying to get at.

I might be wrong, but by looking carefully at these flocks over the last week, it seems to me that a good proportion of birds seen along our coast at this time of year are indeed 'psammadrama'. I would also think that the reverse happens in autumn when our Ringed Plover flocks build up again. Any one else got any thoughts, experience or opinions?......feel free to tell me I'm talking rubbish :-)

Conwy RSPB LRP and Common Scoter

LRPs looking a bit happy on the new islands.  Drake Common Scoter, 2 Whimbrel, Wheatear and 4 White Wag this morning

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Ceredigion weekend

Llanrhystyd Stone Curlew sonogram (bisyllabic kurlee call) using Remembird recording device and created in Ravenlite sound software

Long billed Dowitcher - Borth Bog scrape
Ruff and LBD - Borth Bog

Pied Fly - Ynys Hir

Ring Ouzel - Borth Bog
One of many Groppers on Borth Bog

Beeaters at Aberporth (pic by Arfon Williams)

Beeeater at Aberporth (pic by Arfon Williams

Distant Wood Sand - honest!

Spotted Redshank - Ynys Hir

My annual Easter visit to mid-Wales this year was well timed! Within a couple of hours of arriving I had stumbled on a superb calling Stone Curlew on Llanrhystyd beach - amazingly the second bird there in the last 18 months, with all 3 Ceredigion records coming from the same km square even thoigh the first was over 100 years ago!

The rest of the weekend was spent watching the Dyfi area. A showy Ring Ouzel and a Ruff on my first visit to a new scrape along the Afon Leri showed the potential of a new reserve situated on Borth Bog and I decided to concentrate my efforts here. The Ceredigion lads who were twitching the Ouzel and ruff stumbled upon a superb Long billed Dowitcher on teh same patch of water I had been watching hours earlier. In fact it spent the rest of the day feeding alongside the Ruff! Another visit revealed the LBD feeding alongside a Wood Sandpiper! Surely a site well worth keeping an eye on.

I managed to jam in on the Beeaters at Aberporth thanks to Arfon Williams' excellent directions - superb, while the supporting cast to the weekend included - 350+ Common Tern, 20+ Arctic Tern, 3 Little Tern and 3 Arctic Skuas decending into Borth Bay before an electrical storm. Hen Harrier, another Ring Ouzel, plenty of migrants including Lesser Whitethroats, Groppers, Pied and Spotted Flys, Redstarts, Wood Warblers and Yellow Wagtails. A superb summer plumaged Spotted Redshank was a satisfying find at Ynys Hir RSPB, while Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and 2 Ospreys were just the supporting cast.
This county has got to be the most underwatched (apart from perhaps Powys) and under-rated county in Wales. I saw three birders out all weekend and they were all twitching birds - just imaginge what else was out there!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Lanzarote April 2011

This was a holiday not a birding trip and I did bog-all research beforehand although I soon did a bit when I hadn’t found HBusta or CCC by day 6/8!  Didn’t think I’d see much to be honest but was pleasantly surprised in the end!
Stayed in a blinkin hotel too, yes not a tent as usual.  Its a 4hr flight from Mani too which I didn’t register until the pilot said so. 
Anyhow, stayed in west part of Playa Blanca right at the south of the island with Fuerteventura in view across the water.  I did what most pasty Brits do and got flame-grilled on the first day.  Had Spanish Sparrow, Collard Dove, Sandwich Tern, Turnstone, YLG, Bertie’s Pipit, Common Kestrel, Linnet on the first day.
Spani Spozza
C Dove altough most were different
We had a walk up Montana Tinasoria in the La Geria (lava field vineyard) area on Monday and saw plenty shrikes, Bipits, Spectacled Warbler, 2 Raven and 5 Barn Swallow fed in the lee of the summit out of the wind.
I took a trip up to Salinas de Janubio the saltpans about 7km north and found 25+ B-wing Stilt, 4 Kentish Plover, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Redshank, 20+ Greenshank, 4 Common Sand, and wow finally; Trumpeter Finch, ten of them feeding on the rocky spit.  Driving back I saw two cream-coloured flying things with distinct black underwing and pratincole-type flight jizz although by the time I got the car to a stop off the road they disappeared and those views really were unsatisfactory. UTVs of my first CCC wasn’t a good thought to dwell on.  I headed back to the digs and had a scan offshore and saw 40+ Cory’s Shearwater.  What an amazing species, I could sit and watch them all day oscillating effortlessly through the constant wind.  2 Swift sp were seen around Rubricon at dusk.

Salinas de Janubio

Cur Sand

Day three saw us head to the north, stopping for a shot while at Playa de Famara.  The plains on the way NE of Teguise looked bob-on for Houbara Bustards...but not today.  A Hoopoe passed in front of the car and Sanderling and Spoonbill were on the beach.


Whats going on with the Shrikes out there? I saw  what I thought were algeriensis and one possible meridionalis but a few trip reports state Southern Grey.  I didnt see what I would call SGS-black forehead, white on tertials etc? Any help?

Playa de Famara

A walk from Haria to the viewpoint to the NW provided 5 Laughing Dove at the edge of the village, their call a distinct curu-curu-curu-curu-curu.  Several Bipits and Speccies were also seen on the walk and teneriffae Blue Tit, another easy call to pick out.
Up at Mirador del Rio 30 Swifts fed around the headland which I thought looked good for Plain.
Isla Graciosa from Mirador del Rio
On day four I had an early effort for CCCs at a site near the tip north of Playa Blanca but drew a blank.  I did see 2 Stone Curlew with two well grown young.  On the way to Papagayo Beach I saw a few more Trumpeter Finches, Lesser-short-toed Lark, and more Bipits.  A laze on the beach kicked off with an approaching large raptor- looked a bit Osprey like on-coming.  I got the bins out and a cracking adult Egyptian Vulture flew overhead and east. 15 Cory’s offshore that evening.
The following day we had a walk in the Timanfaya NP area which is pretty much a lava field and some of the area out of bounds with guided access only.  We did nip into one of the areas but got scared and retraced our steps and went to climb Mancha Blanca to the north.  Inside the 1km wide crater were 30+ Trumpeter Finches, 2 Kestrel and 2 Raven until the Kestrel mobbed them out again.
Common Blue
Clouded Yellow?

On day 6 I got up early to see what the Cory’s were doing at Punta Punchiguera the lighthouse to the west.  There seemed to be a build up in the evenings and that morning I had another 30+, some very close in.  We, (well I convinced my better half) should have a drive around the plains NW of Teguise to finally see Houbara Bustard.  Several rough tracks and 2 hrs later, nothing apart from loads of LSTL and a few Common Swift.  Then heading for a bit of culture at Cesar Manrique’s place I pulled over the car on the LZ408 near Nazeret and scanned the last good looking bit of habbo only to find a Houba having a preen 300 metres off into the haze.  Got a bit closer and mentally punched the air.  Also had another Stone Curlew here.  Also Cattle and Little Egret on the way back near the tip at San Bartolome.
In the morning we had a stroll along the coast west of the lighthouse at Punchiguera.  There was a strong NW wind blowing onshore and Cory’s were everywhere, a beautiful sight along this barren coast.  Another Stone Curlew, Whimbrel and 12 Sanderling flew east.
On the last morning it was make or break for the CCCs.  I fanctically researched a few trip reports as to where was best and most detailed the Rubricon Plain around Playa Blanca.  What was I doing wrong?  Was I looking in the wrong habbo?  I took the road to Papagayo as this looked right. I had a couple of reconnaissance walks leaving the car and hot-footing it at 90 degrees to the road but still no joy.  I went through the barrier to go towards the beach and tried again.  There were a good few LSTL and Bipits blaring out as the sun came up, another Stone Curlew crouched and hid behind some scrub and on my last scan a cream coloured blob sat amongst the low vegetation off in the distance and the relief was instantaneous.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I took a few paces and scanned again to see two, then four birds, presumably a pair with two well grown young.  Another long awaited, much read-about since a kid lifer.  Back for breaky and our drive to the airport.  On the way 30 metres to the east of the main LZ2 road and not half a mile out of town, I must have had my eye in, as I spotted another CCC!  I’d driven past here nearly every day before and hadn’t seen them but there isn’t anywhere to pull in so best use the LZ701 which runs parallel and walk across.


Saturday, 23 April 2011

Great day for Wales but nowt in the north!

An amazing day for rare birds in Wales today with 2 Bee-eaters, Long billed Dowitcher, Purple Heron, Woodchat Shrike, Dotterel and more! But not one of these north of the Dyfi Estuary, come on there has to be good birds in the north?! Time to re-double our efforts and find some great birds!

For details of todays rare birds Birdline Wales on 09068 700248

See you at the rarity tomoz!

Alan and Ruth

Thursday, 21 April 2011

hybrid award?

Got to Conwy RSPB quite early this morning to see what was about and thought I was seeing things as a result... surely this would be in the running if there ever was a hybrid award!!

Mallard x Teal Hybrid
Photoshop before my eyes! Was nice to see the sedge and reed warblers showing along with a nice suprise of a Common Scoter on the lagoon at the far end of the reserve. My focus was a sub alp or sardinian warbler, but think that'll have to be one for the orme next week!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Big gull headache

Bird 1

Above and below - Bird 2

I've been watching the large gull roost at Rhos on Sea all winter and this week there has been a big increase with sometimes upwards of 400 birds on there. The vast majority are bog standard argenteus Herrings, along with a few Lesser black backs.

However, the above two birds have caused me a few headaches over the last two days - any opinions?

Apologies for the poor photos - not the easiest place to take pics from and with the high tide roost coinciding with the mid-day sun and associated haze.

Bardsey - the home of Welsh Subalps!

A fine male Eastern Subalpine Warbler (S.c.albistriata) briefly graced the island this morning (managing to get through the obs garden and avoid ten mist nets that were all opened!). Pics will appear on 

Over the past ten years we have recorded 11 Subalpine Warblers on the island including four Eastern males and a pair last year that attempted to breed in the back garden of the obs! Why Bardsey is so good for this species is anyone's guess, but the Twite that was on the island yesterday and today was only the seventh in the past decade!! Since 1981 (past 30 years) there have been no fewer than 26 Subalps on the island, most appearing in the Obs garden, making this species almost annual, here but it is still mega rare elsewhere in Wales.

There were also very good numbers of commoner migrants too; three Whinchats, 145 Wheatears, 21 Grasshopper Warblers, 76 Sedge Warblers, 16 Whitethroats, 18 blackcaps and 65 Willow Warblers, three Ring Ouzels, and 97 Lesser Redpolls.

Tuesday dawned with clear skies and calm winds which heralded another brilliant and enjoyable day’s birding, with streams of hirundines and finches passing overhead, whilst warblers and wheatears occupied the land. A Twite discovered feeding with the Linnet flock in the north-west fields was by far the scarcest bird seen in island-terms during the day. Meanwhile, on the south end: a Red throated Diver was off coast, a Greenshank was heard by the south tip and a Reed Bunting and a Tree Pipit were in the gorse. Waders were again present in solfach at high tide in reasonable numbers: two Common Sandpipers, seven Ring Plovers, ten Dunlins, seven Turnstones and ten Whimbrels were seen. Hirundine passage included 96 Swallows, 80 Sand Martins and two House Martins, whilst 389 Meadow Pipits also moved over in flocks.  The second Whinchat of the year was in the wetlands, whilst an amazing 204 Wheatears were all over the island. Despite good numbers of common warblers, the only different sighting amongst them was three Lesser Whitethroats in the withies; 12 Grasshopper Warblers, 15 Sedge Warblers and six Whitethroats were also seen. A Song Thrush at nant and a Redwing trapped in the withies had arrived, and two Ring Ouzels were on the mountainside above Cristin. Three Lapland Buntings were in the north-west fields, a Kestrel flew over the north end and a ringtail Hen Harrier was seen by the plantation.

Redpolls are still causing headaches here, with the small brown ones being easy to do, then we have medium sized pale ones, large pale ones with whit rumps and then this monster which is presumably a Greenland bird (C.f.rostrata). The bird was photographed with a Blackcap and the photo recreated today with a lesser Redpoll for comparison of size.

Nortwestern Common Redpoll with Blackcap
Nortwestern Common Redpoll
Lesser Redpoll and Blackcap

Mondays update from our blog

 Monday saw another good day for birds with the wind swinging round to the east and the skies clearing. The highlight of the day came in the form of three Greenshanks that flew in over the south end and landed on Carreg yr Honwy with the other waders. Four Common Sandpipers were seen during the day, with other waders around amounting to: seven Ring Plovers, three Dunlins, seven Turnstones, a Snipe and eight Whimbrels; two Sandwich Terns were also later seen around the narrows. Migrant numbers remained steady: 62 Swallows, 108 Sand Martins, two House Martins,  228 Meadow Pipits, a Tree Pipit, 73 White Wagtails, 70 Wheatears, two Ring Ouzels, 20 Grasshopper Warblers, four Sedge Warblers, two Whitethroats,  20 Blackcaps, twenty nine Willow Warblers, thirteen Chiffchaffs and a Reed Bunting were seen. 130 Goldfinches passed overhead in small flocks, with fifty four Lesser Redpolls and thirty four Linnets also moving through.
Good numbers of White wags were on the beach
Lapland Buntings are still passing through
Picture+206-1.JPG (1024×576)
Good numbers of Willow Warblers continue to arrive