Thursday, 28 March 2013

Offshore Swelling

Wow. We have experienced some weather this week. By some I mean bad, really bad, all was lost in the 50mph SE gales that rattled every gram of spring from the Farnes. A picture speaks a thousands words, but neither really sum up the shear bone shaking pounders' that were hitting our fair shores since the arrival one week ago...

Mother nature kicking off!

These insane conditions did not deliver in rarity form, with my ongoing anti-White-spotted Bluethroat headache along with my definitely-not-getting-any-summer-migrants withdrawel soothed by such sights as 20 Goldeneye, 8 Long-tailed Duck, Glaucous Gull and summer plumaged Little Auk, bringing the crip to the ple as they sheltered from the storm...

Long-tailed Ducks being brilliant!

Meanwhile the breeders were distinctly un-amused with the whole -5 windchill action and thus failed to materialise properly until today when the cliffs were adorned by countless Guillemot while the shores buzzed with sudden hormone fuelled Black-headed Gull and Kittiwake frenzies. But more on our resident frontal lobe lobotomising cripples later this week. Until then check some of the more arty breeders which consist mainly Fulmar, the only bird hard enough to inhabit the Farnes throughout that aformentioned climatic fiasco.

'intermediate' Fulmar, not quite white, not quite blue....

Fulmar love on a wall...

Auks rafting to the begins!

Birding continues in earnest with singing Twite being a notable highlight along with continuing wintry avian diversity including Woodcocks exploding every so often to quicken the pace..

My best Woodcock pic..with the Pele Tower for '#atmosphere'

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Back, Sack and Crack

So we're back! After humming and haa'ing from both meteorological websites, boatman and rangers we found a fortunate window of opportunity and made for Inner Farne. Immediately the previous weeks thick easterly bias was felt as birds were everywhere! However the weather's Baltic feel translated into a decidedley wintery avian diversity with Thrush's, Woodcock and Skylark all exaggerating the already numb peripheral appendages. 

The passerine highlights from the past few days are certainly the 2 Mistle Thrush that represented the first spring record in some years and hopefully are an omen of forthcoming rares! Non-passerines were showing well with seabound Whooper Swan sheltering on the north side of Inner Farne, a Glaucous Gull on the Knoxes roost and a Dunlin with a monster bill all providing great cripple potential in our first 24 hours on the islands. Anyway there's a storm a raging outside so I'll be updating with more words and pics in the following days...until then stick these in your retinas:

Greylag Geese circling before deciding that the Farnes are just too damn cold!

Dunlin on the south end, with the far bird showing some crazy genetics in bill form.

Whooper Swan looking confused and rare with the standard Farnes random Shag combo.

Lapwing struggling over the huge SE swells.

Big swells hitting the Wides.

And two from our training week at Gibside...real stonkers for an Islander!


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Turn the other Tail

So since the last post spring arrived then got fisted back south by the strong Siberian hand that has delivered postsubzero temperatures and generally killed everythig on a variety of trophic levels. Be it that Sloth-like Lichen deciding to invest in 'just one more cell' or those Sand Martins that rely upon airborn insects, which presumably in 50+mph NE and minus seven windchill, aren't active. Gotta love the climate. Can't help but think that me, sitting here, consuming energy, distributing waste, and buying into products that scar our earth, am slightly to blame. But I wont preach. We all know somethings happening. And it's spring! Lets be positive, even if it's from within 74 layers and 2.3 coats.

I was in shorts and T-shirt the other day. Forget the wildlife, what about my tan?!

So an update on the American Herring Gull. It seems it is one, but isn't one. You get me? This larus is one for the notebook. Not the life list. As I kind of explained in my last post I have no idea, well maybe slightly more idea now, but not at expert level. Maybe at 'spurting' level. Toilet humour is my level evidently. Anyway I digress. Some experts say yes, others no. The BBRC don't accept them 'at that age' which seems awefully age-ist, seeing as none of them are 2nd winter in age. So lets forget that one. Looked like a beauty whatever.

RIGHT. Spring! T'other day after some seductive southerlies and warm temperatures the fields at Longstone came alive with the sound of monticilla. Of both yarrellii and alba form. have to say I was Over#crippled. Ultra-gripped. Generally gob-stroked. Having seen a couple a week or so ago it was great to see some beefy flocks with alba numbers hitting 30-40 while yarrellii languished at 20. Rough estimates I know. Poor fieldwork. Main excuses include: They were mobile. They were crippled me making seeing let alone seeing AND counting extraordinarily difficult. Here's some pics.

Wags rule! You know, the disgusting women that resemble some sort of hybrid carcass that love footballers for their 'personality'. Oh wait no I don't like them. I like Wagtails.

During this southerly blow...ahem...must. resist. making. blowjob. joke. Phew...managed it. Anyway during said conditions I rambled round the southern tip (oh god not another inuendo!) or tips of St. Marys in the hope of a Rock Thrush, Great-spotted Cuckoo or failing that a Wheatear and found none., However it was very pleasant with a Lapwing on the Airfield and the semi-resident Pintail at Porthellick. Plus some scaley backed moth love in the form of a Schreckensteinia festaliella try saying that whilst pissed.


Pintails....wonder how they got their name?

Tune in tomorrow for my trip to Tean. It was epic.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Are you taking the Michahellis?

What a week for stringing gulls! All the slightly less proactive and more suspicious out there will be saying 'it's February, they're bored and seeing things', and, well, in a sens they're right. Birding has been painful at times with walks through the silent Scilly countryside feeling more like Farnes in December! However, blessed be our beaches and these granular gems have been hitting repeatedly in terms of those big fat opportunistic buggers, the gulls.

I'll start at the end. During some routine habitat stuff yesterday my phone rang with a frantic voice screaming 'get to the end of your lane, I've got an American herring Gull and am coming to pick you up'. Now most people would play it cool, like 'yeah I'll go tomorrow if it's still there' but for me it was more like October take two. Having seen more in the states than I care to remember, or indeed can remember at all, this was a new British bird. Cue heart palpitations, sweating, swearing, shaking, running etc. All over something that is pretty much a glammed up argenteus.

Having been shown semi-conclusive pics of black tails and barring that went on and on and on I was excited. I had barely any idea of how to ID smithsonianus apart from young ones are proper dark and that. But this bird seemed 'obvious' in a totally unobvious way. A contradiction wrapped in a enigma. Anyway I digress. We turn up and there it is looking uber-agro on a rock. Cue bins, scope, camera to fully take in this lovely looking Larus. Like some twisted son of a Glauc x Herring x Mentalist hybrid the bird showed well as it rested, flew around, fed in the surf etc etc. 

Now at this point I COULD go into fine barring and covert moulting creating dark bands and pinkish bill bases but to be honest, being more of a 'jizz' birder (not only because I frequently jizz while looking at crippling rares) so I was busy taking in this birds overall feel, with some concentration on the more blatant salient ID features such as 'that tail', 'those bars', 'this bill' etc. Although the series of crap photos I attempted are semi-ok, they don't really show in flight shots which you can find on  if you're not convinced yet and why should you be? Gulls are hard man. Not only because they drown adult Shags, but because they all look alike. I'm not a gull racist though. 

Previous to this technical stonk there had been few highlights, or birds, even. However a Yellow-legged Gull at Porthloo the other day was nice, if not utterly distant.

And finally some crowd pleasers...Black Redstart!