More mint cake Padre?

A smashing whistle-stop tour of a number of sites around the South Lakes this afternoon, shamelessly orchid chasing.
Early cloud gave way to brighter sunny periods, but a strong wind made things difficult.
After a bit of searching I managed to locate a single flowering Fly Orchid (only just, the top bloom was still doing the business, but the rest of the plant was going over) at Latterbarrow.

Delighted to see it though – the plant may have been on the way out for the year, but I’ve not seen one before, so to me it was as crisp as a freshly sharpened Cumberland pencil.
2B or not 2B. Ha ha ha.
Hordes of Common Spotted there, with one or two Heathy looking ones, a few Great Butterfly Orchids and two Common (?) Fragrant Orchids.

Northern Brown Argus tazzed around like lunatics, the strong breeze making it even harder to watch them, but I only had one Small Pearl Bordered Frit, and that was raggedy.
I drove the short distance to Foulshaw, where the distant Osprey nest had an occupant, just visible with the ‘scope on full zoom, while four or five Large Heath butterflies clung to the vegetation for dear life and a White Faced Darter hurtled past on the breeze.
Green Tiger Beetles scurried about, and Redpoll, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were singing before I pulled out and headed up to Scout Scar in the early evening.
It was glorious up there, but even windier, making the flowering Lesser Butterfly Orchids on the tops seem positively defiant – they looked way too delicate to withstand the wind…but withstand it they did.

The petrified remains of the spring’s Early Purple Orchids clung on, while I think this Fragrant Orchid below is a Heath FO – can more experienced orchid hunters enlighten me??

Superb plants, with Redstart, Tree Pipit and Raven up there too, so I didn’t ignore feathery things completely today.
A spiffing afternoon.


Cow and chicken

The Cattle Egret was looking chipper and keeping busy amongst the herd on Rimmer’s Marsh this evening.
Marshside was cool and dark after the rain, with Swifts and House Martins from the housing estate swooping down real low, while Little Ringed Plover and Dunlin scuttled amongst the roosting Blackwits in front of the Sandgrounders flaps.

Whitethroats and Sedgies still singing on Hesketh Drive and Gadwall sliding into eclipse.
Sometimes a brief visit is all you need.

Long time, no sea.

Rain rattling off the roof slates and wind gusting around the eaves this morning meant that even though the tide wasn’t particularly high and peaking mid-afternoon, a seawatch beckoned.
I got down to the Tobacco Dump for 1315, and while it was hardly jumping, it was good to be scanning the waves again after far too long.

Tobacco Dump, Formby, 8/6/19, 1315-1545,
Frequent showers, wind SW/W f5-4, tide high at 15.35:

Gannet 52
Manx Shearwater 2
Common Scoter 31
Razorbill 2
Bonxie 1
skua sp 1
Arctic Tern 1
Sandwich Tern 2

At first the wind and squalls were quite strong, but fell away later.
It was time to give my brolly a good battering (at £2 from any of those big sport superstores, golf umbrellas are a cheap investment, but worth their weight in seawatching gold for keeping rain and wind off you, even if they tend to have the life expectancy of an ice cream in a microwave).
The bay was quiet, but a steady movement of Gannets was gliding north just beyond the surf, almost all sub-adult birds.
They dragged a bruiser of a Bonxie with them, perhaps tracking the Gannets in the hope one caught something it could rob.
Another, smaller skua was dancing about beyond the range of safe id in the murk 2/3rds out (almost certainly an Arctic), but terns were striking by their virtual absence, while a small huddle of Common Scoters hunkered down on the swell.

Later in the afternoon a few of the Gannets started moving back south.

Light and shade

Bored by the rain I headed up to Pilling Lane Ends this afternoon for a butchers at the long-staying Iberian Chiffchaff.
The bird was singing from the copse between the car park and pool and after a few minutes of restless zipping about, settled down and performed very well.

I even managed a video clip of the bird singing away, which you can watch on YouTube here – I know, I know, kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Don’t laugh.
I was interested to compare the Pilling Iberian to a bird that was singing from the top of the poplars at Dempsey Towers on April 19th.
That bird looked like a fairly coventional, if bright Chiffchaff, despite an intriguing song that wasn’t normal, but didn’t quite fit Iberian.
Here’s some pics of that one – I didn’t manage a recording unfortunately, but think it was “mixed song” Chiffy…

Unlike the goggled-up bird above, today’s bird was singing textbook Iberian (at times a perfect match for the Collins Bird Guide app recording) and showed the lovely yellowish breast, longer paler bill, dark eyestripe and bright supercililum.
The wings and tail looked long too – half Willow Warbler, half Chiffchaff.

In the shade of the canopy in the rain it looked very green, and a bit scruffy, but when it came out of the shade to sing on the edge of the copse the subtleties of its plumage were more obvious.

Different contact call and brown, rather than black, legs when it came out of the shade, but it did pump its tail occasionally like a normal Chiffy.
A thoroughly educational afternoon then.
It’s been awhile since I watched one at full throttle down in Coto Donana, or tried to enjoy the grotbag at Potteric Carr as it struggled to make itself heard over the roar of motorway…

It waits for no one

It all grows up so quickly – just a week or two away from Plex and the place is disappearing under summer vegetation and crops, and the urgency of spring is fading.
Haskayne Cutting was sliding into drowsy summer with Yellowhammer song slowing in the fizzing elderflower heads, fledged young phylloscs in the more mature trees and an intoxicating carpet of Northern and Southern Marsh Orchids amongst the dazzling yellow spearworts.

The wildflowers on the field edges are superb at the moment too – almost as striking as the orchids.
Out on the fields I grilled growing pigeon flocks in the hope of picking up a scallopy chestnut back (remember those days???), but had to make do with good numbers of Stock Dove shuffling about to a soundtrack of Corn Buntings grinding and strangling notes down towards summer’s snoozy time…

Don’t forget to let me know what you’re seeing via the comments thingy – always great to hear what others are up to, whatever corner of the globe you’re enjoying!

Eau de vie

As the black blanket of night turned to the orange of a rural French sunrise behind my eyelids the pain was excruciating.
No way was I opening my peepers.
Nerve endings screaming, just a twitch of my little finger sent shockwaves coursing right the way back to hangover central in my addled brain.
Over 25 years later and I can still remember the consequences of a night drinking too much eau de vie with wonderful European friends and family in the tiny village of Meon in the Loire.
The worst thing was a Serin was belting out its “crushed glass” song from the apex of the roof just above my head.
It was like a drill, unceasing and merciless.
I’ve never really forgiven the little yellow weasels for that, and have gone out of my way to avoid Serins ever since.
Until today, when urged along by Neill Hunt, I hopped into the wheels in the early hours and sped over to Easington (I know, a third trip to Spurn in a month – but what’s wrong with that?), where a male Serin has been coming to feeders off Vicar’s Lane for the last few days.

It was time to put the Serin hoodoo to bed.
I was overlooking the garden and feeders before 8am, and a short time later the Serin flew in to stuff its face.
Flighty and nervous, perhaps because of the high winds, the bird kept its distance but gave great views (no rings, wings and bill all okay) out on the moss-covered tarmac in front of me.

In case you think you recognise the site, it’s probably because you do – remember that glorious October in 2016?
Yup, it’s where “you know who” graced so many of our lives…

Many thanks must go to Tony Broom for keeping the seed topped up for his little yellow visitor.
The Serin wasn’t that bad actually, at least it didn’t sing.
In fact after an hour or so watching as it came and went, I’d almost forgiven it for the Meon incident.
Serin sorted I headed on down the point, but a brisk westerly was blasting across Spurn making it hard to pick up on much.
A Honey Buzzard had moved north over the lighthouse shortly before I got to the Canal Zone, but a big raptor that pitched down into the saltmarsh on the banks of the Humber in front of me turned out to be a Common Buzzard.
Such is life.
Yellowhammers were singing at Easington Cemetery, where good numbers of hirundines hawked in the shelter of the trees, while Whitethroats and Sedgies perservered in the gusty conditions, before I headed back west.

Galooty as ever.

Harrassed by Jackdaws, Blackwits, Lapwings and BHGs, the Glossy Ibis looked as galooty as they always do as it waded about after water snails in the lush vegetation at Marshside this afternoon.
I don’t remember them getting so much hassle in the past, but my memory is far from photographic these days.
Such awkward looking birds, and yet to my eyes, strangely sinister in flight.

Frequently out of sight in rushes deep enough to hide a Mute Swan under full sail, the ibis still popped up for those with sufficient patience to wait for it at Nels hide, rather than folks who tried to climb over the bank that shelters the marsh (‘cos getting a brief view and a blurry shot of a startled scarcity to consign to the depths of an irrelevant hard drive is far more important than the well-being of the nesting and nestling warblers, wildfowl and waders your silhouette against the skyline freaks out right?).
Ahem, sorry just had to get that off my chest.
And sorry if I appeared angry when I shouted at you, but that’s because I was.

Back east

I pulled into Kilnsea Wetlands car park yesterday morning for about 9am and got straight onto the two gorgeous female Dotterels that were scampering about the lush meadow below Long Bank.
Distant views at first, but a breathtaking 90 minutes or so with one later in the day fully justified my early morning dash east, skirting the rush hours of Manchester, Leeds and Hull.
Mist rolled over and back over the Spurn peninsula almost continually yesterday, promising plenty of good birds, when aerial manoeuvres by three Typhoons weren’t tearing the Humber a new one.

A Wood Sand fed on the pool in front of the hide opposite Long Bank and a Great White Egret dropped in while I ‘scoped the Dotterels as they scurried through the damp grassland, their startlingly white superciliums shining out in the murk.

Neill Hunt and Tony Owen had motored over the previous evening and I met up with them for two great days birding, staying in the palatial splendour of Neill’s caravan last night (thanks for the hospitality buddy).
Yesterday we circled round from Kilnsea Wetlands to the Warren willing the mist to produce the goods and managed plenty of Yellow Wagtails, Brent Goose, Cuckoo, Spotted Flycatcher (quite challenging to keep up with through branches behind the Crown and Anchor after a liquid lunch… we were only there for the wifi honest), Marsh Harrier, Hobby and best of all, a stunning male Montagu’s Harrier.

The Monty’s banked in front of us as we walked along the Canal Zone, mobbed by corvids, before swerving back into the mist and melting away.
A Red Rumped Swallow picked up at Kilnsea Wetland dragged us back up there late afternoon, although we couldn’t relocate it, so we went for another hour or so with the remaining female Dotterel, which fed just beneath us on Long Bank, as the mist continued to roll in and out.

What a bird.
Today dawned bright and sunny, great for hordes of Orange Tips, Speckled Woods, Red Admiral, Common Blue and Peacocks, but a bit quieter on the bird front.
Neill still managed to find a brief Blue Headed Wagtail up near the “new” YWT car park, and a Marsh Harrier passed overhead at the Warren.
We completed two circuits of the Kilnsea – the Warren area, but as it felt slower than yesterday, we headed back west just after 2.30pm today.

Stilt Sand, Lunt: Relying on the kindness of strangers…and friends

Working down at Crosby all day and untroubled by quality optics or camera, I still couldn’t resist calling into Lunt on the way home for the Stilt Sandpiper found this afternoon by Steve Riley.
Last one of these Yankees I saw in the UK was at Conway in 2006, so it was probably time to say “howdy” again.
Armed with my knackered work Opticron Verranos (the eye-pieces are held on with red electrical tape y’know) and my battered old Lumix TZ point and press (bound together with normal Sellotape and elastic bands), I figured at least I’d be able to see it.
Just. Maybe. As long as it was close.

The bird was there alright, but distant at the back of the Great White Pool.
Luckily Dave Bickerton, Andy Pryce and Chris Tynan all let me have a gander through their ‘scopes.
Many thanks chaps, but why are you all so tall????
I had to deploy full “Stilt Brick” tip-toe mode to see through the lofty eye-pieces!
The Stilt Sand fed amongst the Blackwit roost before it was chased back onto Garganey Scrape (site map here) where we got much better views – I even reverted to the old ways, indulging in a spot of risible hand-held digiscoping (thanks for the lend of your ‘scope again Chris).
Ah, so that’s why I bought a P900.

Little Ringed Plover and Wood Sandpiper fed round the edges too, with Lapwing, Oycs and Redshanks etc.
A splendid early evening detour on the way home, it took me the best part of an hour to leave as so many folk were out, and you have to say hello don’t you?
Great fun socialising, lovely to see you all (although I wouldn’t try that trademark Bickerton flying double heel click to celebrate a Lancs tick again Clarko, I fear our Fred Astaire days maybe over, if indeed they ever began).

Clear out

Glorious cloudless skies and hot sun may have looked wonderful at Spurn today, but it meant all the goodies that were lurking there yesterday had cleared out.
It was alarming to see “Jonah” Thomason continue his run of epic dips, especially as yesterday’s female Collared Fly at Easington would have been a British tick for me too.
But like the clouds and grey, it was gone gone gone.
Arriving at 0630 courtesy of Andy Pryce, Trops, Pete Allen, Alan Wright and I quickly established Easington’s peaceful cemetery was flycatcher-free, but a male Redstart flitted about, a local Barn Owl sailed by and two Lesser Whitethroats were giving it the beans in the Sycamore canopy, grabbing insects and rattling away like there was no tomorrow.

Sammy’s Point had Wheatear, Grey Partridge, Yellow Wags, hordes of Whitethroat and an unseasonal Fieldfare, and a Marsh Harrier circled over the banks of the Humber.
Further down the point, a male Hen Harrier went north and we had a few more Redstart and a Garden Warbler but it was kinda quiet, if summery.

A protracted sesh at the Crown and Anchor was needed, and we enjoyed the sun while small numbers of Brents and Whimbrels commuted about the estuary and a fine Red Kite drifted south west out towards Lincolnshire.
My first Four Spotted Chaser of the year was basking on hawthorn at the Observatory garden and Walls, Brimstone, Orange-Tips, Peacocks and Holly Blues were on the wing.