Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Two Barred Crossbill, Garfitts Farm, Bilsdale, North Yorkshire. 11th November 2008

Ive been to Bilsdale today with me good mate Ian Corbett for the Two Barred Crossbill that's been visiting a feeder on a farm in the area. I met Ian at North Allerton railway station as he'd travelled up from York.
The farm was up on a hill and could be reached by driving up the long private track to the property.
On arrival at the farm, the owners were still around and explained how long the bird had been there, and what time it usually appears on the peanut feeder in the front garden.
We were the only birders around at that time, but a constant stream of arrivals started arriving before the bird eventually showed.
Ian located the bird by call in the trees opposite the house, and immediately it landed on the peanut feeder. From there it flew onto the bird bath, had a drink, then fly off.
I didn't want an image of the bird on the feeder, and wanted one in a more natural setting, so I waited to see what the bird would do when it arrived to feed again.
Again it called from the trees, flew to the peanuts, then to the bird bath, then disappeared.
Most people stood by the peanut feeder which was giving good views when the bird appeared, so I decided to walk to the opposite end of the garden and hope that it landed on the bird bath when it next came to feed.
Time went by, as did the birders when the crossbill called from its usual vantage point. It flew straight down to the feeder, consumed some peanuts and then flew towards me landing on the birdbath. It bent over and drunk some water, before sitting up allowing me some chance of an image. It really was a cracking little finch. Once it had finished, it then flew off on another circuit.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Corsican Nuthatches, September 2008

For the second part of our honeymoon,
Hazel and me took a budget flight to Corsica,
to spend a week photographing their endemic
Corsican Nuthatch.

Four species of nuthatch breed in Europe and,
of these, the delightful little Corsican Nuthatch
Sitta whiteheadi is the most restricted in range.
It is endemic to the western Mediterranean
island of Corsica, where it is confined to the
Corsican Pine forests of the mountainous spine
of the island.
Corsica is administratively part of France. It
lies about 100 miles southeast of the south
coast of mainland France, but it is actually closer
to Italy (c.50 miles to the east) while the larger,
Italian island of Sardinia lies only 11 miles from
its southern tip.
In September 2008, we flew
from London Stansted to Alghero in Sardinia,
hired a car there, and then drove north and took
one of the daily car ferries from Santa Theresa
across the Strait of Bonifacio to Corsica. The
crossing to the beautiful port of Bonifacio takes
only about an hour.
Hoping to see and photograph the nuthatch,
we based ourselves for a week at the Gorges de
la Restonica (at the Hotel Dominique), southwest
of the northern town of Corte, and this put
us within easy reach of the mountain pine
forests where we hoped to find the birds. From
Corte, we headed south on the N193 for about
22km to Vivario. At the south end of this small
town, a restaurant on the left hand side of the
road marks the junction of the D69, which leads
to the village of Ghisoni in about 30km. But,
after only about 3km along this road from
Vivario, well before the Col de Sorba, you are
already in the habitat of the tall pines that the
nuthatch favours.

Female Corsican nuthatch were especially hard to locate, rarely coming down from the tops of the pines

We parked, and could hear the nuthatches
calling almost immediately. Before too long, we
had enjoyed excellent views of at least one
(albeit high up in the trees). It was obvious that,
to photograph the nuthatches, we would have to
be higher than the area we were in, so that
we could look down on them. So we drove
further up the valley towards Ghisoni and
parked again.
We could hear Corsican Nuthatches again as
soon as we opened our car doors. Our height
relative to the trees seemed potentially better
for photography here, but we quickly decided
that our best chances of obtaining some good
images would be to move a few dead and fallen
branches into a spot that would suit both us and
the birds. With time and patience, it worked: the
inquisitive birds eventually came into view at
photographic range.
Later in our trip, however, we enjoyed even
better views of the nuthatches back in the
Gorges de la Restonica, where we were staying.
It seemed clear that wherever good Corsican
Pine forest was to be found, so too would the
nuthatch. During our week’s stay on Corsica, we
also visited the ski resort Haut Asco, another
well-known area for the nuthatches. We did not
actually see any here, but we heard them several
times. By the end of the week, driving between
the various nuthatch areas, we hoped we had
obtained enough images of the bird, which does
not seem to have been photographed very often.

We can thoroughly recommend Corsica for a
birding trip. It is an inexpensive place to visit,
the scenery is spectacular, the roads are excellent,
the climate is warm and, besides the
endemic nuthatch, the other endemic, Corsican
Finch can also be seen (although, in September,
they did not seem to be as common as I had
thought they might be). Amongst other species,
we also saw Marmora’s Warblers in the Gorges
du Tavignano and Audouin’s Gulls in the southwestern
port of Propriano.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Rose Coloured Starling, Inskip, Preston, Lancashire. 12th June 2008

The news of an adult Rose Coloured Starling last night on Birdguides had me scampering down the A6 to Inskip this morning. Being a new bird for me, it was important to catch up with it while it was in the area.
I arrived early and there was only a handful of birders present. Chris Batty was putting food out to try an entice it into a photographable position, on the lawn on the opposite side of the road to the row of houses. There was no sign of the bird, so I positioned myself next to a tree in close proximity to the laid out apples and waited.
Eventually the bird appeared high up on a television aerial on one of the houses. Surely it would come down to apples!
It didn't, and kept disappearing further down the road, then reappearing on the house roofs once more.
People came and went, and still the bird wouldn't come close. I'd sat for 4/5 hours waiting for it to come down, and decided to stretch me legs in a bid to find the bird elsewhere.
I'd walked about 100 metres down from where everyone was, although there was even less hanging around by now when I thought I saw the bird land on a feeder in another front garden. My view was obscured by the front bush, but I was convinced that the bird landing was the Rose Coloured  Starling.
It was. I walked slowly towards it, in order to try and get a record image. As I approached though, a farmer was approaching on his quad bike. As soon as he got near the front garden the Starling was in, the bird rose up and disappeared. Typical!
The farmer stopped on the road, right where I was stood. He asked whether I'd photographed it, to which I replied no!
He then asked me to join him in his house for a coffee, as the bird came regularly onto his back lawn. I couldn't believe it. I took up his offer on his condition that no one else followed us, and took me shoes off before wandering through his house, into his dining room. He opened the patio doors, and I set me camera up ready for the bird to come back.
We sat and waited, when all of a sudden the Starling landed about 20 feet away.
It couldnt get any better!
I took some record images and relaxed at the thought that at least I'd got something. The farmer said he was leaving after a time, and said I could stay in his back garden for as long as I wanted. I said that my wife was on her way, and could she come round the back, and that my good friends Mike and Jane Malpass were on their way and could they come and meet me in the garden. This was no problem to the bloke, so I sat there holding court until they arrived. Both Hazel and Mike rang me to find out where I was, and I explained that they could enter the garden, but not let the masses in. They managed to find me, and the bird showed just as it had done earlier.
I will be sending a photograph to the finder/farmer as an acknowlegement for all his help.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Bluethroat (Luscinia Svecica), Rossall School,Cleveleys,Lancashire. 30th May 2008

Having seen and photographed a (white spot) Bluethroat at Aldcliffe near Lancaster on the 8th April, the news of a (red spot) Bluethroat down the road at Cleveleys, certainly whetted the appetite. I wasn't at work, but had no vehicle. I had to wait for Hazel to come home from work before we could set off.
Everything was ready, (as I'd left me wellies at home a few weeks earlier), nothing was left to chance.
We set off, and got to the site for about 1800pm. On arrival, a group of birders were stood watching an area of scrub, in the corner of a field. We walked down to the crowd, and the bird could be seen from where we were all stood, albeit partially obscured by the various branches in front of it.
No chance of any images, as we were too far away, and the branches were everywhere. I walked away to set up me camera, in the hope it might come out into the open.
We both stood watching from afar, when I saw the Bluethroat fly over towards the sea wall. Everyone else stood staring at the bush it had left!!
I called over to say that the bird had left the bush, and was now near to the sea wall. It was now in the open, but 30 metres away. The birders walked towards the bird, but it went even further away.
No worries I thought, it'll come back. (I hoped).
Within ten minutes and everyone gone, we watched the Bluethroat fly down to the long grass by the footpath, down from the original bush it was seen in.
We walked over slowly, and the bird just sat there, singing its heart out.
I managed a few record images and we went home happy.

Bluethroats aren't very common in the North West, yet in the last five weeks, I'd caught up with both red spot and white spotted Bluethroats.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Bluethroat (Luscinia Cyanecula) Aldcliffe Marshes,Lancaster,Lancashire. 8th April 2008

I was at work today when I was about to hand over a patient when me phone started vibrating in me pocket. Obviously I couldn't answer it.
Again, and again it kept going off, but for what reason?
I handed over me patient and exited the building and checked me phone, and their were numerous missed calls.
I checked the history and they were from Ian Corbett. It was obvious that a decent bird was about. I immediately rung Ian back to see what all the fuss was about.
'Where are you?' he said,
'Im at work why?'
'(White spotted) Bluethroat near you'
'How near?'
'Aldcliffe Marsh' was the answer.
Now from where I was at the hospital, Aldcliffe Marsh is approximately 1 1/2 miles from where I was stood.
I explained that I couldn't get there as I was at work, and the earliest I could get there was after 1900pm.
I had some planning to do.
I rung Hazel and asked her to put all my camera equipment in the car for when I get home. I explained I would be home, change vehicles, then shoot off for a Bluethroat.
I did just that. I finished work, dashed home, changed vehicles and was at Aldcliffe for  1930pm.
I walked (briskly) towards where I thought the bird was. In the distance a lone birder stood scanning the area. As I approached him, I realised it was Mark Prestwood. Mark hadnt seen the bird, but there was still time.
It was at this moment that something was missing. Wellies!
I was stood on the marsh in a pair of trainers upto me ankles in water. (Must remember wellies next time).
No worries, as as I was thinking, the bird popped up on a piece of driftwood. I knelt down to keep low, and fired off some images.
It had been a bit of a rush, and I was soaked up to me knees, but well worth it.

Monday, 14 January 2008

White Crowned Sparrow, Cley-next-the-Sea,Norfolk. 14th January 2008

Ive been down to Norfolk today to finally see the White Crowned Sparrow that's been thrilling the crowds down there. Shifts have been in the way of me going, so to catch up with the bird this morning was fantastic.
I set off at 2200 hrs last night as traffic would be quiet and I could have a sleep before first light. I arrived in Cley at 0230 hrs and reclined the car seat and had a snooze.
Man was it cold!
It was obvious where the bird had been, as the opposite grass verge from where the previous hundreds of birders had stood, had turned into a quagmire.
The first birder to arrive was Richard Millington, editor of Birding World magazine, which is based in Cley-next-the-Sea. He suggested that as there was no one about, I should stand by the gate of the garden the sparrow had been frequenting and a photo opportunity might arise.
I crossed the road, and set me stall up!
A few other birders arrived, some stood by the gate, others on the road. The sparrow showed briefly at the end of the driveway, a little to far away, even when stood at the gate! It is my first American sparrow and a superb bird to see in Britain.
I decided to leave my position and see how it went later in the day.
I had a short drive through the village to the beach at Salthouse where another bird I hadnt seen before was coming to seed thrown onto the pebbles. A Lapland Bunting was coming into the seed with a large flock of Snow Buntings. Ive never seen as many Snow Buntings and it made a great spectacle. I managed a few images and decided to drive back to Cley, to see if the Sparrow was showing.

On arrival, the White Crowned Sparrow was on the gravel path with the resident Chaffinchs and Sparrows feeding as if it had been there all its life.
Steve Gantlett, editor of Birding World magazine arrived and came and stood with me at the gate, whilst the Sparrow went along with what it was doing.
Its been a great day with a superb little bird and good company. The drive home was a bit ,ore hectic due to the traffic, but the journey home couldnt spoil my day.