Sunday, 26 February 2012

A good day and a problem

The day started at Staines with four Black necked Grebe fairly close in, a couple of redhead Smew on the North Basin and an adult male and redhead on the South Basin, 30+ Goldeneye including two groups of displaying males, a juv Shag on the tern rafts and later swimming around on the South Basin. There were also two Scaup – one an adult female and the other that was either a dull adult female or a first winter. While grilling the ducks and chatting to another birder he picked up a Short eared Owl over the far side of the North Basin being mobbed by corvids and which quickly ditched into a tree. It was pushed out of the tree after a few minutes and tracked the east side of the reservoirs before turning west over the south bank and heading in the direction of Staines Moor.

Then the problems started. On the way back from Staines I dropped into the Wetland Centre and everything was pretty uneventful until I got to the Peacock Hide. I scanned around a bit and, fairly close on the nearest bank of the Wader Scrape, was a first winter Caspian Gull. It was an immediate stand out bird with a white head, long wings, all dark greater coverts with white tips to the lesser, median and greater coverts forming three pale lines on the wing, and dark pale tipped tertials. After taking it all in I reached for my camera – and that moment a huge troupe of bird tour people clunked, shouted and tramped into the hide and the Caspo flew off across the Main Lake with the other large gulls. And, while some of the other gulls returned, the Caspo didn’t.

Now why is this a problem? Well the problem is that the LWC has a history of reporting Caspians, some of which are, err, well, not always Caspians. I've been birding at the LWC for nearly seven years and in that time I've been shown about a dozen and a half ‘Caspians’ which turned out to be mostly Herring Gulls or LBBs (with a couple of GBBs thrown in). Of the ones that get reported there never seem to be any photos. So, fairly or unfairly, records of Caspians from Barnes tend to be looked on with a certain amount of suspicion, despite the fact that at least some of them are probably gen.

Which brings me back to the problem. I've just had a Caspo at Barnes with no photo. Which feels like I'm just adding to the problem. Do notes still count?

UPDATE: Thankfully someone else also saw this bird - Stephen Menzie - including some great pictures here.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Mellow Yellow

A very quick blast up the M4 with the sun rising behind me took me to Rhiwderin in Gwent on Sunday. I'd toughed it out a day since the forecast for Saturday looked extremely wet and therefore the bird seemed unlikely to perform that well. There were also a number of other nice birds in the area and it made more sense to make a day of it rather than stand in the rain for fleeting glimpses of a sheltering bird. The twitch was really well managed with one of the local guys manning the style into the field and the donations bucket.

I joined the long line of birders with scopes trained down the hedge and eventualy out popped the first winter male Yellowthroat. It slowly worked its way up the hedge until it was finally pretty close to the end of the line where I was standing. At that point a bunch of long lenses pushed themselves to the front and got in everyone's way - including one guy who I offered to let stand in front of me to get a shot and then stayed put with the back of his head six inches from my face until asked to move. But the twitch was mainly really well behaved and brilliantly organised.

Super smart bird - I've seen a lot of these in the States and Canada but they are really stunning and well worth a look.

After a long while spent watching the Yellowthroat off and on, headed off to Comeston Lakes to see the male Lesser Scaup that's been regular there for a while. The first surprise though was a ringed Whooper Swan in among the Mutes.

The Scaup showed well, although a bit too distantly for good photos.

Next off to Cardiff Bay to try for the Bonaparte's Gull. Rather bizarrely, I saw my first ever Bonies Gull at Cardiff Docks, probably only a couple of miles from here. Unfortunately I wasn't so lucky today and dipped, but did get to see 1-2 ad Med Gulls which were smart.

Last stop of the day was Slimbridge, back the other side of the bridge. I don't come to Slimbridge very often but I really like it. I admit I don't really get the whole 'collection' thing and the evening feeds are a bit zoo like but anywhere with such a range of wildfowl is very cool. Today there were over a hundred Bewick's, c230 Whitefronts, c160 Barnies on the Dumbles plus waders. The female Lesser Scaup was still on the Rushy Pen showing very well (the States must have been the last time I saw two in a day) and at the end of the day a Water Rail showed really well by one of the feeders. All in all a pretty spectacular day!