Monday, 17 February 2014

A Canal Walk (Kinver Way)

After all this rain we needed to get out for a walk, so as tempting as sitting in a hide may be, the day of sunshine on Sunday was to good to waste. We decided to go somewhere different as we had heard it was a good place for Otters, but knew that we would have to be extremely lucky.

We parked up at the Stewponey and dropped down onto the canal and headed towards Kinver, it's a great walk with the canal on one side and the River Stour on the other. Of course we never saw an Otter and just the usual common birds and Snowdrops.

We did get our first Goldcrests of the year though, although trying to photograph one of the blighters is a nightmare, they just wouldn't stay still. I did manage a couple of half decent shots in the end:

There were plenty of Buzzards about and lots of singing going on, but very difficult to find looking into the Sun. (One days sunshine and I have found something to moan about) In all we saw 17 species, but is was really the walk in the lovely weather that counted, 5 miles (Whittington Lock) there and back with some nice coffee stops, where we just admired the views.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Baggeridge Country Park

A bird that has eluded us over the years is a Tawny Owl, never in the right place at the right time, but we saw recently from one of the blogs that we follow (Shenstone Birder, aka Jason K) that he went to Baggeridge CP recently to tick off his Tawny Owl for the year as it was a reliable sighting. We knew that there was one there and tried about 3 years ago, but the directions that we were given were either wrong or we had got the wrong... Anyway, the upshot was I contacted Jason and he kindly sent me the directions and so we went on Sunday. Although the weather wasn't great we had really good views of the Owl:

Apart from keeping his eyes on us, he wasn't bothered at all, brilliant. Thanks Jason!

We stayed with him a while had a coffee, then went for a short walk along the pools, whilst the weather wasn't too bad. We had some nice sightings, Blue & Great Tits, Robin, Long-tailed Tit,
Nuthatch (2), Treecreeper:
Jay, Buzzard (4), Goldfinches, BHG, Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe (3)

So again thanks Jason for great directions.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Scotland Day 2 - Findhorn Valley, Lochs and 200 up!

You can't trust the weather forecast! This should have been the better day for going for a walk, but in the end it was a mix of very short bursts of sunshine followed by extended periods of high winds, sleet, rain and snow.

We set out in good faith to Findhorn Valley, with a brief stop at the River Spey by Grantown as some activity was spotted on the river as we drove by. This turned out to be a number of Goldeneye, Goosander and a Little Grebe. Not real good photos just a record shot of a Goldeneye on fly by!
We carried on to Findhorn Valley what a great drive down to the valley, although the weather was now shocking as can be seen by these photos of a Kestrel and a Goosander.....

We parked up at the end of the track and had a coffee whilst we waited for the weather to clear and scanning the ridges for signs of Golden Eagle in the clear spots. The weather did improve and we togged up and set off to walk up the valley, but after 10 minutes the weather turned as was the worst yet, so we fled bedraggled back to the car, deciding that we would save the walk for another visit in better weather and by then the Ring Ouzels may be back. So plan B, off to Loch Ruthven in the off chance that some of the Slavonian Grebes might have returned early. On the way saw some Red Grouse:

We arrived at Ruthven in good weather only for it to pour down as we were walking to the hide. Then looking out there wasn't a lot about certainly no Slavonian Grebe. A single male Goldeneye was about, along with a large flock of Mallard and about 10-15 Teal. Two Buzzards gave us a display over the far shore. We stayed for a while and after lunch and coffee decided we would leave and head over to Loch Flemington. Just as we were packing up I noticed that the Goldeneye was back, but when I looked through the bins it was a winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe. Excellent, although I was too slow with the camera, by the time I had got it ready it had dived and came up behind some trees that blocked a clear view. So I legged it out the hide down the path and found a path to the shore line, I quickly found it, but by now it was some distance away, so for the record:
We left Ruthven happy! So what about Flemington, by the time we got there the light was going, we stopped in the side road alongside the loch and scanned with the scope, looking for any sign of an American Coot, no sign, but we did see Scaup, Wigeon, Pochard, Mallard, Cormorant, Goldeneye, Goosander, Mute Swan, Grey Heron and Great Northern Diver. Not a bad hall. After a bit we moved on up the side road and stopped by a nice mown grass area outside a bungalow. As I turned the engine off, I said, "Plenty of Moorhen, so there should be some Coots about!" As is said it a Coot walked towards the car, we looked and bingo!! It was only the American Coot, we got out the car and it wasn't bothered by us in the slightest. Sadly the light was terrible so these are the best shots I could get:

But that was our 200th UK Bird, not shabby to bring up the 200 with an American Coot. First time for us to get a Mega Rarity as well!

We stayed a while to watch a Cormorant fishing no more than 6 feet away from us, which was very entertaining, he caught so much we thought he might explode! So off back to the digs.. We stopped one last time at the end of the loch in the gathering darkness just to see if anything presented itself, (4 Scaup turned up) but then we noticed a huge murmuration, but it wasn't starlings, a vast flock of crows were behaving just like Starlings, swooping about the sky, settling on the power lines and then taking off again, here is a very poor shot of some of it:
Thats the end of day 2 and a half!

Before heading home, we took time to drive up to The Lecht, which was only 4 miles away and get our Snow Bunting fix in the Ski Area Car Park, after a few minutes they duly obliged!

So in 2 and 2 bits of a day, we managed 59 species of birds, plus Red and Fallow Deer. With 2 lifers, we can't complain, so much so we are already booked to go back in April, this time staying at Burghead!

For a complete look at all the photos from the trip, some good, some not so!  Go to:
All the Photos

Scotland Day 1 - Loch Garten and the North Moray Coast

Courtesy of Groupon we made a whistle stop tour of Scotland for a long weekend. Calling in to see our Daughter in Edinburgh on the way. (Stopped the night before heading on)

We met up with Jo & Jimmy our usual partners in birding at Loch Garten, with two targets in mind, Crested Tit & Red Squirrel. The Crested Tit delivered as planned but sadly no sign of any Squirrels, but we did get our first Treecreeper of the year so that was bonus:

We were going to go up to the Ski area at Aviemore for Ptarmigan before heading to our digs in Tomintoul, but the snow gates were shut and the weather was looking grim so we headed off, just as well as the Snow was starting to come down quite hard.

After a few drams that evening and a good breakfast the next morning we set off north heading for Burghead and Long-tailed duck! We first went to east side of the headland and did a bit of sea watching, picking up some distant Long tails, Common Scoter and Cormorant as well as Great Black-backed Gulls. The sea was pretty rough but the surfers seemed oblivious to the wind and cold! So over to the harbour, this is a great place with brilliant views, we found some Redshank and Cormorant as we approached the harbour:
But the highlight being 5 Long-tailed ducks in the harbour (3 male, 2 Female):

Plus a Great Northern Diver:
So a really good start to the day. We then went for a walk around and discovered this group of Turnstone sheltering:
There was however one bird at the back of the group that caught our eye:
Our first Purple Sandpiper, result! UK List number 199! Does it get any better, well yes it does but that's for tomorrow! Walking on we had another surprise a Shag keeping out the wind:
Carrying on to the end of the Harbour Wall there were about 50 Eider just outside the Harbour entrance
bouncing up and down on the choppy water. We then wandered back to the car, on the way this Rock Pipit posed for us on one of the walls:
We drove on now to Findhorn Bay for a look around, we stopped at the Local Nature Reserve Hide. This was locked so we found another viewpoint. Most birds were pretty distant, there was a nice group of Pintail on the water but much too distant for a photo into the Sun. (The Sun did put in an appeara!nce from time to time!) We went along to the shore behind the town, the only birds of note there were more Turnstone:
We had a look at the Marina adding a pair of Red-breasted Merganser to the tally, the took off as soon as we appeared though. There were plenty of Oystercatcher about over on the far shore but again too distant for any photography! So on to the next peg.... We decided to drop into Cubin Sands NR, but the paths were flooded and time was pressing as we wanted to visit Nairn, so just took a photo of some Highland Laddies to prove we had been there!
So on to Nairn, we initially parked up by the Leisure Centre overlooking the Sea and had a bite to eat, just a couple of things to report here really, some Brent Geese foraging in the rocks:
and a Herring Gull who couldn't quite decide what to do with his catch!
after about 10 minutes he gave up after being harassed by other Gulls and he just dropped it in the sea.

After Being suitably refreshed we drove over to the harbour, there was plenty about, Wigeon, Turnstone, Redshank, Hooded Crow, Herring & Great Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher and a Goosander.

So endeth day one!