I was up early this morning (6am) and headed out to the southern end of the National Trust's land-holdings at Wicken Fen. I arrived at the area known as Adventurer's Fen at around 7am and headed over to the new bridge that crosses the Reach Lode (one of the main waterways draining this part of the Fens). I was hoping to see a Black-winged Stilt that had been found a couple of days previously by James Hanlon, on Baker's Fen, and had since relocated to this spot. However, after an hour of scanning, I still hadn't seen it & had to head home to help with the school run.
On getting back home, I received news that the bird had re-appeared. Taking George & Zach (two of our minded children) with me, I headed back to Wicken.
This time, I arrived at around 10am and there was the bird, right in the area that I had been watching earlier!
|Black-winged Stilt by James Hanlon|
As the bird has a jet-black back & wings, you can tell that it is an adult. From the extensive amount of black on the back of the neck & head and the slight pink flush to the upper breast, you can say that it is a male.
This is the first stilt that I have seen in Cambridgeshire and my 222nd county tick.
Thank you to James Hanlon for letting me use his excellent photographs (taken when he found the bird on Baker's Fen earlier in the week).
After a very early start, up at 5am to drop Clarissa off at school to head off on her Iceland trip, we headed down to visit my Mum & sister in Sussex.
On the way, we stopped off at Wraysbury to give Jet a run out. It was lovely to be out in the early morning sunshine, as we walked around the National Trust's grounds at Runnymede.
|Ring-necked Parakeet enjoying the morning sunshine|
We then headed out to Ambersham Common. Jet enjoyed a run & found a ball that another dog must have lost. A small group of Crossbills were showing well whilst they fed at the top of some pine trees. It wasn't the best light for photography, however.
|Late afternoon at Lancing Beach|
Another long haul trip started on the Tuesday night with a very long (574 miles) drive from Cambridgeshire to the northern end of Skye. Dawn arrived on Wednesday morning and so did the ferry - we were off to North Uist.
|The ferry waits at Uig, Isle of Skye|
|The Finlaggan sails into Lochmaddy|
|Lochmaddy, North Uist|
|The RSPB Balranald visitor centre; closed for the winter|
|Traigh Iar, North Uist|
|Can you see it?|
Including myself and my travelling companion, Dave Ellis, there were 13 people watching the duck.
|The successful twitchers enjoying the Harlequin Duck|
|A Glaucous Gull flies past|
|Greylag Geese - proper wild ones|
|A Richardson's Canada Goose amongst the Barnacles|
|Snow Goose - one of two present|
|Sunset at Aird Ma-Ruibhe, Berneray|
We enjoyed excellent food and company, washed down by a few pints of Mc Ewan's 80 shilling and a nice glass of 12yr Bowmore!
Dawn rose over Lochmaddy.
|Dawn at Lochmaddy, North Uist|
|Lochmaddy Hotel, Lochmaddy, North Uist|
|Bagh a Chaise, North Uist|
It was time to make our way back. On the return leg, we stopped to photograph Hooded Crows.
|Fishing boats at Lochmaddy, North Uist|
|Cruachan Beinn a Chearcaill, Skye|
|Eilean Donan castle, Kyle of Lochalsh|
|River Moriston at Bun Loyne|
I went a long way out of the patch, this time, flying to Shetland to twitch the 1st winter Pine Grosbeak at Housetter.
I rose at 04:15 & was picked up by Jim Lawrence at 05:00. We drove to Gamston Airport, near Retford in Nottinghamshire, where we met our travelling companions, Will Soar (who had organised the trip), John Pegden & Dave Mack, and Colin, our pilot.
It was snowing while we waited for Colin to de-ice the plane (a Piper Turbo Saratoga SP), but we were soon climbing on-board.
|Colin with N88NA, a Piper Turbo Saratoga SP|
|Dawn rises over Gamston Airport, as we take off|
|Soon after take-off, over the snowy Nottinghamshire countryside (07:56)|
|We met the sea at Middlesborough (08:31)|
|Hartlepool headland (08:33)|
|A ferry steams into Newcastle (08:42)|
|Coquet Island (08:52)|
|My old home - the outer group of the Farne Islands (09:01)|
|Bamburgh & Budle Bay (09:02)|
|Lindisfarne, or Holy Island (09:04)|
|Thornyhive Bay (09:38)|
|Echt and the woods & moorlands south of the B9119 (09:45)|
|After passing over the land, we crossed the coast again at Cullen (10:02)|
|Looking south over the Pentland Skerries, back towards John o' Groats (10:33)|
|Copinsay and Orkney Mainland (10:39)|
|Cloud formations over the North Sea (10:49)|
|The runway at Sumburgh|
With the hire car (an automatic Kia cee'd) sorted and time pressing on (it was now almost midday), we headed off up the island. The scenery whizzed past as we raced north towards our destination - Housetter and our target bird.
After only one wrong turning, we arrived at 12:45. Fortunately, two local birders/photographers we already present and showed us to the bird - a stunning 1st winter PINE GROSBEAK!!!!!!!
|Pine Grosbeak at Housetter, Mainland Shetland (this was the fourth photo that I took, only a couple of minutes after first seeing the bird)|
|The bird was actively feeding in the pine trees|
Pine Grosbeaks breed in the taiga forests of Scandinavia and northern Russia. In the winter, they head south through Finland and Sweden, sometimes reaching as far south as Denmark & occasionally Holland. This bird actually turned up in early November 2012, but was mis-identified as a Crossbill and was overlooked until it relocated to a different garden and was photographed. It was correctly identified when photographs of it appeared on the internet on 30/01/2013.
They feed mainly on pine seeds and berries, but in Scandinavia will also come to garden feeders, where they can be very approachable.
|Although quite large birds, they are acrobatic feeders, even hanging upside down to get to their food (this pose is almost identical to the similarly aged bird in the Collins Bird Guide!)|
|Even the rump has a splash of colour!|
Turning back to the Grosbeak, I took as few more photographs before the weather turned nasty and we headed back for the car.
At Scalloway, we drove slowly along the side of the East Voe (the top end of a coastal inlet). Almost straight-away, we saw an Iceland Gull flying over the water. It joined some other gulls around some farm buildings, so we drove on, crossed a bridge and parked up next to a group of birders. The Iceland Gull, a 1st winter, was showing well, but there was no sign of the reported Kumlien's or Ring-billed Gulls. Scanning across the water, we picked up more Red-breasted Mergansers and Black Guillemots and a nice group of Eiders.
|A winter plumaged Black Guillemot (as this is a black, white & grey bird on a black, white & grey sea, I thought the picture looked better reproduced in black & white)|
Colin was waiting for us and ushered us back onto the plane. We departed at 16:35.
We flew at a higher altitude on the way back, over the illuminated cities of Newcastle and Leeds and, thanks to a strong tailwind, we made very good time, landing at 19:10.
We said goodbye & thank you to Colin and parted company with the others. After a drive back down the A1 & A14, with Jim, I was back home by 20:45.
The Pine Grosbeak was my 394th British tick - I wonder what will be my 395th and will it live up to this?
We enjoyed a nice day out at Grafham Water, today.
Starting by the lagoons at Perry, we had soon seen Coal Tits and Siskins as we headed towards the dam. Two very distant small dark waders at the northern end of the dam turned out to be Turnstones, when we finally got the scope on them.
As we headed back to the car, we managed to catch up with the two sanderlings that have been favouring Gaynes Creek. Here's a couple of record shots.
|Sanderlings at Grafham Water.|
After helping someone to jump start their car, we headed round to Hill Farm. We walked along the northern shore, as far as Savages Creek, & were lucky enough to pick out the 1st winter drake Scaup from amongst the many Tufted Ducks.
We left for home with one very muddy dog and an ever growing list!
Today, Wendy & I headed down to Wimpole Hall. Here are some photos of the adult female Hawfinch that we saw there.
|At 15:45, she flew into this tall, bare tree.|
|But after a couple of minutes she flew down into this Holly bush.|
|And stayed there for the next hour!|
Here are a selection of photos of the Waxwing flock that I visited this morning. Enjoy!
|This is the way to watch them - stand under a tree & wait for them to fly in! (taken on Wendy's mobile)|
|It was a sizeable flock - 74 in total.|
|Close-up views were easy!|
|At one point they landed on the ground, only a few metres away from me, to feed on the scattered berries.|
|There were still a few berries left on the bush.|