My decent(ish) finds in Feb 2012: 1 Yellow-browed Warbler Carnon Downs 04/02, 1 Water Pipit Carnon Downs 04/02, 1 Smew Loe Pool 01/02

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Sunday, 27 September 2009

Possible Brown Shrike

First found by Tony Blunden (involved in the Brown that was on the Scillies). Managed to get down with Thor Veen who took these photos. Sorry about the quality - the bird was distant and the photos have been heavily cropped. Click on photos for a larger version

Would be interested in any thoughts on its ID. Looks quite good for Brown to me, but I do have reservations - e.g the squareness of the tail and the paleness of the lores - (although tail appears rounded on the left hand side). Will comment more and post fieldnotes in due course. Any comments welcome though.






Saturday, 26 September 2009

Can you guess what it is yet?

I rarely post my own photos and the picture opposite is the reason why I tend to stick to field notes! Shameful isn't it? Really need to get a lens for my camera soon.

A coconut for anybody who can actually guess what it is. The only clue I'll give you (apart from the very obvious one above) is that it was on Predannack Airfield, I found it today and it is a long overdue self-found lifer for me. Actually the first I've had since moving to Cornwall.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Sour grapes or field craft?

Before I start, I should probably make it clear that the following is undoubtedly the former, as I haven’t got round to buying a decent lens for my camera. Stay with me anyway....my take on one of the prevailing arguments in birding:

Birders these days, exercise their hobby in an era of digipics and instant news. Sometimes I wonder what it must have been like back in day when, if you found a rare bird, the best you could do to get the news out would be to sprint to a phonebox and call a few birding mates, who would probably be out birding anyway. If you wanted to silence the sceptics, you had to hope that news filtered out and that the bird would stick around for fellow birders to see it. If you lived on Lewis, that probably meant about six months later. The only real way to get around that problem was to get pretty handy at taking field notes. Well, you could blast the bird in question out of the sky or bush, but for some reason, that became unfashionable about the turn of the century. These days though, nobody seems to bother with notes. One call to RBA or Birdguides and the pagering masses arrive and digi-snap and the entire country can see your bird, so why bother? Why indeed? The human brain is more subjective than the camera lens, and more prone to error.

I suppose there isn’t a need really, but I can’t help wondering if birders are losing some of their field craft and not looking at birds as closely as in the good old days. I wonder how many modern-era birders could actually sit down and accurately describe the entire plumage of a Blue Tit? OK – doesn’t really matter – easy to ID, but what about a Gropper? They’re pretty common down this way, but in all honesty, I haven’t attempted to track-down that many reels to their source and bar the classic diagnostic features, how well-equipped would I actually be to deal with a Lancy or a PG tips in the field? I find that drawing a bird and taking notes helps we look at birds more closely, which brings me on to the real reason for this post:

Yesterday afternoon, after a good thrash of the Lizard, I stumbled across an Ortolan. Almost certainly the one seen previously about a mile or so away, but nevertheless, the incident had that element of surprise that one normally associates with finds. It was a very obliging bird indeed, sitting out in the open for long periods, permitting close scrutiny, even though when it did to decide to fly it didn't like returning to the same place. A great bird to enjoy out in the sunshine on my own and so much better than twitching one at Cley. I could have got a mediocre digipic through by bins with my phone, but to be honest I really didn’t see the point. Even an Ivory-billed Woodpecker researcher could have put it to shame and much better ones already existed. It did offer a really good opportunity to get back to ye good olde days of taking field notes though. I’ve attached my best efforts with the view that, even if a bit grubby, public airing of laundry isn’t entirely bad.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

A decent seawatch and an overdue account of my Pec Sand find

Although I missed out on Hurricane Bill's spectacular at Pendeen, due to work commitments, I did manage an hour and half off Lizard Point yesterday late afternoon. Things started off well when a Puffin, almost the first bird I saw, flew east. Less than a minute later a Sooty Shearwater flew west suggesting I was in for a good un. I soon scored another Sooty, but was distracted by a fishing boat chugging east with large numbers of gulls in its wake. I thought I saw a Sabine's Gull in amongts the gulls, but was distracted for a few minutes by several petrels also in the wake, one of which appeared not to have a white underwing stripe - too distant to be sure. Any scouring back through the gulls, I noticed there were actually two juv Sabine's Gulls. Around the same time. two more Sooty Shearwaters flew past. A good haul for 20 minutes! A texted Andy and Tony, neither of whome could make it down, but actually things got quieter. The next hour or so produced a steady trickle of Manxies, Fulmars and Gannets, 1 Balearic Shearwater (W), another Sooty Shearwater (W), 1 Bonxie (E) and few more petrels, most of whch were stormies, the rest of which were unidentified. Last decent sighting of the day was an Ocean Sunfish flapping its dorsal as it drifted slowly past.

I've been out birding a a few times over the last couple of weeks, including a trip back to my old stomping grounds in Norfolks, but aside from Garganey (Cantley Sugar Beet Lagoons), Spoonbill (the long resident bird at Cley) and Green & Curlew Sands (Cley & Rushhill), I didn't see much and havent updated the blog. I should have really updated it for Pectoral Sandpiper though. Late afternoon on the 14th of August, after a scouring the Marazion reedbeds for Aquatic Warbler & Spotted Crake to no avail, saw me scanning the waders on Marazion Beach. As I walked towards the causeway to St Michaels Mount, I noticed bird which stood out from the Dunlin by being slightly taller and having greenish legs. A closer look revealed the classic pale saddle stripes, clean white belly and breast streaking tapering to a neat point. A Pec Sand! Rather early for a juvenile. After watching it for about 10 minutes and taking a few field notes I decided to text a few locals and ring Birdguides. While on the phone, a dog walker scared all the waders off, and unfortunately, although I saw where most of them went, I lost track of the Pec Sand. I walked down to where most of the waders were. What followed, is an embarrassing incident - one which I’d rather forget about, and one which I could attribute to the fading light, but really there’s no excuse! Just as Dave Parker was arriving, I located the group of dunlin that were flushed and immediately noticed one with clean white underparts and fairly clear pale saddle markings. I thought I’d got back on the Pec, and informed him it was there. He looked at the bird more closely in my scope and said he could only see Dunlin. I looked at it more closely and could only see Dunlin too! I thought the bird had moved in the mean time, but it hadn’t. I’d mistaken the Dunlin for a Pec Sand. I actually began questioning whether I’d completely cocked things up first time round. Then I remembered the legs and no – the bird I’d first seen definitely had noticeably greenish-yellow legs and the “Dunlin” definitely had dark legs. Fortuitously both my notes and the extremely poor snap I took through my phone confirm this, along with some pretty obvious structural differences (I was quite relieved when I got home and double checked though!) I set of in search of the bird on other parts of the beach, but in the event, the fading light defeated a relocation.

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