Friday, 29 February 2008

Going Ivory gull hunting.

Ok. Let's face it. Ivory Gulls are one of the most fiendish birds to fly over this earth.  They are ridiculously small, impossible to see and love to play hide and seek.  3 friends and I drove overnight on Tues to look for one. It's about 10 hours, packed into a little tiny rental car, from home here in WI to Pierre SD where the bird was hanging out.  We spent all day Wed (10:00am til sunset) looking for the bird without success. Then we spent all day Thurs (sunrise to sunset) still without any luck.   It was a long trip for not finding THE bird. Although, I added 5 lifers and 17 year birds.  
My lifers were:
Glaucous Gull
Ross's Goose
Sharp-tailed Grouse 
Gr Prairie Chicken

So the trip was not a complete loss. 
I now hate Ivory Gulls though and will hate them more if the bird is refound! 

Wednesday, 27 February 2008


Hi there thought I'd briefly introduce myself as I'm a new contributor to this site. My name is Connor D. Rand and I'm a young (15 years old) birder from north Norfolk. My British List is 311 and my year list is around 140. My local patch is Holme Dunes, which, popular to contrary belief is most certainly not rubbish and past it! In the last few years my main aim has been finding my own rare and scarce birds, with European Bee-eater at Spurn Point the best, as well as Richard's Pipit (Sumburhg Head, Shetland) and Surf Scoter (co-found at Holme)... I already know several contributors to this site, such as Simeon and James from the Young Norfolk birders and Jyothi.
Recently in Norfolk it has been pretty slow, although 2 Goshawks and a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker in the Brecks were both cracking and a Rough-legged Buzzard at Burnham Norton was good. This year has produced three British ticks, the White-crowned Sparrow at Cley, Lesser Scaup in Warks and Spot Sand in Glamorgan.
Good luck to all as Spring migration (slowly)arrives, my website is

Saturday, 16 February 2008

During half term we had the fabulous opportunity of a skiing holiday in Hemavan in the north of Sweden. On condition that Orjan, our host, acted as Hemavan's "Turistprast" (tourist priest - fairly self explanatory) for the duration of the holiday, we could borrow a house next to the church!

We packed our binoculars dreaming of hordes of Nutcrackers and Siberian Jays, but unfortunately the reality was almost more surprising. There weren't any birds! The total number of species seen on the whole trip was about 10...

Magpies and Hooded Crows were the only regular birds. Great tits were fairly common, averaging about 5 individuals per day! Pistewatching (not a recommended activity) produced only Raven, whilst snowballfightwatching delivered a lovely flypast by a male Black Grouse - the star bird of the trip!A very tantalising "owl sp." made an brief appearance for James; he thought it was a very small Barn Owl, before realising that Sweden has no Barn Owls, and decided it was probably Tengmalm's. Simeon heard a distant call which was possibly a Hawk Owl.

Perhaps the best birding was when we sat in a ditch and watched someone's bird feeders! Blue Tit, (Northern) Bullfinch and several gorgeous Willow Tits were added to the list before we resorted to burying each other.

Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Willow Grouse and Ptarmigan were all seen stuffed in various cafes.

Still, despite the lack of birds we had an amazing holiday with some great friends!

Monday, 11 February 2008

A tour of 4 wetland centres!

We, the research team from WWT travelled to 4 of our centres this week to carry out routine ringing, heath checks and screening for Avian Influenza in any waterfowl that got caught in our decoys. It started off on Monday (5th Feb) leaving WWT Slimbridge en route to WWT Welney. Nothing much around at Slimbridge that morning but nice to see quite a few Bewick Swans in for the morning feed, also watching a pair of Peregrines over the dumbles scattering everything! What a sight! Arrived at Welney in the dark, straight for supper and then back to the B+B for an early night as Tuesday was gunna be busy!! Up very early on Tuesday and 26 Whooper Swans, 50+ Pochard were caught. All birds processed very quickly and then we had an hour to spend at Welney before shooting of to our next centre (Martin Mere!) With not having much time on my hands I persuade one of my colleagues at Welney to show me the Tundra Bean Geese, 3 birds seen. Also another one of my colleagues managed to get Water Pipit, which I was rather miffed at not seeing! ;( It was nice to see a wide range of waterfowl at Welney - Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pinktail, Shelduck, Pochard, Gadwall, Teal and Wigeon.Arrived at Martin Mere just after the afternoon swan feed, this is one of my favorite sights at Martin Mere!! Hen Harrier seen in the background beyond the mere, Short eared owl and Peregrine also logged. Arrived at Martin Mere (Weds) around 7.30ish, no birding in the morning as we had to start straight away... 34 Whooper Swans caught + over 80 ducks! Had one or two hours to spend at Martin Mere before our departure. Birds seen - Grt Spotted Woodpecker (3 together!), Tree Sparrows nest building, Hen Harrier again, Peregrine, Buzzard, Tawny Owl, Barn Owl and Merlin all seen...After that it was onto our final centre, WWT Caerlaverock!! My favorite wetland centre. Nice to see a field full of Pinkfeet on our approach to the centre in Annan (1500+ birds). The usual suspects seen..... Barnacle Geese, Whooper Swans, Buzzard, Peregrine, Twite, 80+ Siskin, Golden plover - 100+. The Red Breasted Goose made a guest appearance after spending time on the English side of the Solway, so it was nice to catch up with this since my last visit! Also seen.....wait for it.... Otter!!After we had all done at Caerlaverock it was off back down the M6 to home for a well needed rest! All in all a very busy but successful few days......its always nice to escape from the office!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

London Wetlands Centre 3th February 2008

I got London Wetlands Centre off my little 'waiting list' for now, though I may need to go again soon to get Bittern that I missed today. At least I got one of my targets and something unexpected... Mum needed some new binoculars today so we went up to the in-focus shop. When we were deciding on what to get there was a Green Woodpecker from the in-focus balcony and a few Feral Pigeons and other usual stuff. I left mum and dad in the cafe and headed off for the main reserve, hoping for Bittern and Water Pipit. I spent the first half hour in the first hide before they caught up and we left five minutes afterwards for the WWF hide. The 1st hide produced Pochard, Cormorant, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Ruddy Duck, Little Grebe and a Egyptian Goose! I followed it as it swam with my scope and then took a video. I looked for it again five minutes later and there were two standing in the shallows preening! Excellent! This was a nice surprise and a year tick. Other than this there was not much of note at the first hide. On the way to the WWF hide a group pointed a flock of Siskins out to me, I only got a brief view of them flying as they departed, though. At the WWF hide there were a few Herring and Common Gulls amongst the Black-headed Gulls. There were Lapwing flying about too. A lady next to me said 'ooh, what's that little brown bird on that small island right in front of us' to her companion. At this moment I knew it was a Water Pipit and found it instantly, confirming the ID and telling the ladies what it was. Several people were pleased when I pointed it out. It was a lifer for me, and very close too! I got great, clear views through the scope and got a couple of phone-scoped videos and lots of photos (see right).After about 20 minutes of watching it we left for the Peacock Tower, up there I pointed the Water Pipit out to a few more people and asked if anyone had seen the Bittern, no-one had... There wasn't much else from the Peacock Tower other than good views of wildfowl including Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Pochard. After a while we went home after a successful day.

Below: Water Pipit (phone-scoped)