Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Birdfair 2016

Or, continuing the title of my previous post, what all birders do.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Birdfair once again. I worked most of the time in the Israeli stand, mainly promoting Champions of the Flyway.

Before the storm began

Friday was pretty hectic

We launched Champions of the Flyway 2017 - we will work together with Doğa Derneği, Birdlife Turkey, to prevent illegal killing there. It was an honour to meet their president Dicle Kilic - what an impressive woman. Looking forward to work with her in the future.
It was also great to see how the global reach of COTF extends from year to year. This year, COTF2016 Knights of the Flyway decided to donate a pair of Swarovski SLC to Aves Argentinas - here Hernan Casañas recieves the bins from Swarovski's Dale Forbes and Bill Thompson III. Hopefully, this will help them in their efforts to save Hooded Grebe from extinction.

It felt almost like I was back in Israel - great to spend time with my friends and colleagues who came over from Israel - Dan, Jonathan, Meidad and Amir.

We had wifi!

Thanks to my son Uri for the snap

I participated in two major events this Birdfair. On Friday night I spoke in the main RSPB events - Frontiers of Migration, in tribute to Martin Garner. I joined Paul French and Keith Clarkson who were both brilliant. Adam Rowlands hosted the event - he did a great job.

On Saturday I represented OSME in Bird Brain of Britain. It was great fun and I shared 1st place with Ashley Banwell, but all contestants did a great job. I was happy to learn that my prize went to support a youth camp on bird migration in Azerbaijan.

As always, Birdfair is an amazing place to meet old and new friends. It is like a neverending conversation, lots of laughs and good fun. One of my personal highlights was when I met the legendary D.I.M. Wallace, together with my good friend Mark Pearson from Filey - we talked about Basalt Wheatears. Ian actually read the article I wrote for Birdwatch some months ago.

I had little time to walk around but as always I was captivated by the mural created by some of the world's finest wildlife artists:

I think my family had a good time too

Till next year, good night.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What proper birders do

This morning I wanted to go birding. I Needed a change from scoping distant shorebirds at Breydon, so I decided to scope distant seabirds instead. The forecast said NW winds, but eventually the wind was more westerly. Anyway, bad conditions won't stop me. At 06:00 I was at Cley beach hide, and the first bird I saw through my scope was an Arctic Skua at mid range - cool. It was followed shortly by another four skuas - 1 dark Pomarine and another three Arctics, at mid-long range.

Atmospheric shot of an Arctic Skua (couldn't get the pom)

These were promising first two minutes. I was there until 08:30. It wasn't that busy all the time but there was enough stuff moving through to entertain me and some of Norfolk's finest birders who happened to share the shelter with me. A steady trickle of Common Scoters and other ducks, some more skuas and shorebirds headed west. We had another skua that might have been a / the pom again, but too distant for positive ID. There were many hundreds of terns feeding offshore - Sandwich and Common.

Common Scoters

Apparently someone had a Sooty Shearwater after I had left. Oh well.
My highlights 06:00 - 08:30:

Pomarine Skua 1
Arctic Skua 6-7
Skua sp. 5-6
Common Scoter 50
Fulmar 1
Gannet 20
Knot 15
Grey Plover 5
Sanderling 1

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Lazy yank

This morning I had an airport drop-off duty, so took advantage of minimal brownie point usage and headed southeast towards Oare Marshes Nature Reserve in Kent. Since I moved to the UK two years ago, the returning Bonaparte's Gull was on my radar, but until today I hadn't the chance or excuse to go for it. I timed it right today and arrived there at high tide - what a lovely reserve! Packed with birds. The gulls were roosting close to the road and I found the petite gull quickly. I was very happy to see it - nice WP tick for me, though I saw many only a couple of months ago in Canada. These were my initial views:

The problem was that this lazy gull was fast asleep, and did nothing at all. All the other gulls and shorebirds were preening and feeding, but not my gull. Too much junk food I guess. Then it started raining, and then the rain became torrential, and I was standing there like a wet idiot, waiting for the bloody thing to show its bill. After about an hour or so it finally woke up, started preening and eventually wing-stretched. Sadly a bloody Black-tailed Godwit got in the way:

Then a Peregrine flew by and flushed everything. The gulls landed on the water a bit further away:

But eventually bonny swam closer and resumed preening, scratching and wing-stretching on a small island. It is moulting (or molting?) very quickly into winter plumage - two weeks ago it had a complete black hood. Also it wing moult advanced quite a bit.

Note the size difference compared to a Black-headed Gull:

 A couple more images I took using my Samsung Galaxy S5 phone through Swarovski ATX95:

Wet gull

Despite the rain I really enjoyed the reserve. I was especially impressed by numbers of Black-tailed Godwits - around 600. This is a section of the main flock:

And another phonescoped image:

The locals were as excited by this adult Curlew Sandpiper as by the gull - it was showing very well:

Other highlights were Wood and Green Sands, Greenshank, and about 40 Golden Plovers. Nice to see shorebirds up close and personal, unlike Breydon...

Very wet scope

I had obscene thoughts to twitch the purple chicken on the way back home, that almost materialised. But a car crash at Dartford Tunnels changed my plans and I only wanted to get back home.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Cream-coloured Starling

Copyright Tony Stride...
Had a pleasent but rather quiet morning with Breydon Water regulars Pete and Tony. Breydon has become my favourite pre-family duties birding location. Enjoy the challenges distant shorebirds. This morning ASDA carpark delivered the most exciting birds. As I got out of the car a Green Sand flew over and landed in some ditch on the other side of the bridge. At the carpark itself this stunning juvenile Starling took my breath away:

Large numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gull families feeding young:

And this Oystercatcher was probing in the grass:

Tide was in so shorebirds were concentrated but difficult to see in the tall grass. Highlights were 2 Knot, 1 Grey Plover, 1 Turnstone, 1 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 6 Med Gulls. More Dunlin and Goldies compared to my previous visit.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Baird's Sandpiper @RSPBMinsemere

Had a quiet morning with family when news broke of a Baird's Sandpiper at Minsmere. Not a mega rarity, I know, but still one I 'needed'. I couldn't go before the late afternoon, but somehow I managed to remain friendly for the rest of the day and my family didn't suffer too much from me. At 17:00 I met up with Drew and we drove down. Quick walk to East Hide and the bird was showing immediately. We had great scope views in which we appreciated the unique structure: never-ending rear and slightly down-curved bill. It was an adult with a contrasting plumage and a nice pectoral band. It fed almost constantly on the mud, mostly solitary or with Little Ringed Plover, it stayed away from the Dunlin flock. What a great little yank! I was very happy to see it, in fact it was a lifer. But photography was near impossible. The bird stayed in the distance most of the time, only just before we left it moved a few meters closer, but was still about two hundred meters away. Light was not good too - either too dark or we were looking into the sun. I am playing around now with my new phonescoping adapter - certainly need to get more practice.

Adult Baird's Sandpiper, phonescoped using Samsung Galaxy S5 through Swarovski ATX95 and Novagrade adapter

Tried shooting with my DSLR and 500 mm too, not sure if the results are any better...

We watched it and watched it, and I was mainly faffing around with my gear, failing to produce a decent photo of it. All in all the experience was great. Minsmere is really fun to visit. Tons of birds and some more quality too apart from the baird's. There was a Caspian Gull and a Yellow-legged as well; 3 Spotted Redshank; Green Sandpiper; 4 Little Ringed Plovers; 5 Bearded Tits.

Caspian Gull - 3cy?

Sunset over Minsmere

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Breydon again

I really enjoyed birding in Breydon the other day, so returned very early this morning. Again met up with the locals. Good birding, somewhat similar selection to the previous visit. Highlights were 1 Spotted Redshank, 1 early Turnstone, a (very) local scarcity - Kittiwake (probably from Lowestoft, about 10 miles away). There was some increase in Med Gulls - about 60, 20 Sandwich Terns, 15 Whimbrel, 20 Golden Plovers and that's it more or less.