Friday, 22 November 2013

Another good find in the fens!

'Hug a Hoodie', quipped Cameron. And if I could have got close enough I would have. Yesterday I took a wander round Woodwalton Fen and found a hooded crow. Not a bird that floats your boat? Well in Cambs over the last few years they've been as rare as pallid harriers. This individual represents my first in the county and (by the following day when found still to be present) the first twitchable one in a decade. Nationally (specifically in Scotland) it's not a particularly rare bird but I was still pretty chuffed though a bit frustrated when my camera's focusing mechanism jammed. I still managed one shot - can I bring myself to share it here? OK, why not? Please email me if you wish to purchase a framed print of this stunning portrrait, already tipped to be Cambs Bird Club Photograph of the Year 2013 (It's the bird on the right by the way)!

I would like to thank my camera for focusing on the cars in the background - great job, you really did them justice!
I seem to be having a lucky run birding locally in the fens and yesterday was my first trip out since finding the Northern harrier at the Ouse Washes. I've been out around 10 times since May (average of perhaps 2 - 4 hrs in the field) and have found 6 county rarities including 2 BBRC's (one a potential 4th for Britain). This is WAY better than my usual hit rate. I've been going out mainly midweek which helps but I think it's luck mainly - being in the right place at the right time. Anyway it's certainly opened my eyes to the potential of this area. If I lived a bit closer I could go out more often and who knows what's out there to be found?! Then again I'll probably not find anything now for the next few years. Luckily I twitch too so I'm still guaranteed to see some good birds one way or the other.

And now to keep your mind off that slightly tempting stonechat with the funny tail that you'd have gone for had it not been on Scilly (and as an apology for the hoodie shot above) here's a reminder of what hooded crows can look like - a few birds I've taken in Scotland in recent years.

This one taken at Loch Ness. But is it a hybrid? Might have to do some reading up

Friday, 1 November 2013

Lifting of the Catharus Curse

The Catharus Curse comes in the form of 3 dipped veeries and 2 failed plane charters for hermit thrushes. These delightful little birds are exciting TransAtlantic vagrants but they can be highly elusive and have a penchant for turning up on far flung islands, making them hard to connect with.

The hermit thrush found at Porthgwarra on 29th October should prove to be the 9th record for Britain but it's the 1st to be found on the mainland. Cue major twitch! At this time there were already Yanks turning up all over Britain and Ireland, the great storm having pulled in ruby-crowned kinglet, mourning dove, 2 American robins and 2 myrtles while the long-staying Cape may continued its presence on Shetland luring intrepid listers further north than they would have preferred.

I couldn't quite make it on the first day but was there on the 2nd after an overnight drive to this traditional birding spot in the south-west. It took a while for it to be found by which time most of us were beginning to think it had gone. But a scramble round the corner and hopes were rekindled. It had shown to some lucky observers for a minute or two but had disappeared! We waited for perhaps another half hour until Josh J noticed it just feet away from him. He tried to prevent a stampede but as perhaps 200 birders all moved into position, not surprisingly it did a runner.

A game of cat and mouse ensued over the next few hours with the crowd waiting patiently for views. The bird obliged on several occasions and most observers left satisfied. We tried for a nearby white-rumped sandpiper but the strong wind and high levels of disturbance were instrumental in our failure. So too perhaps the fact that we were in the wrong place (next day it was further along the coast). But who cares? Hermit thrush is in the bag and I didn't even need a bank loan to get it.

Yanks reign - Last 3 pages are making my notebook look like the Sibley Guide!