Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Trip to Baie de Somme, France

On a camper vanning trip at the moment with Holly and Jacob.

Day 1 Newhaven to Dieppe

A calm sunny crossing, perfect for cetacean watching but didn't see a single bit of blubber. A few birds included 10+ European Storm Petrel, 4 Great Skua, 5 Kittiwake, 100+ Gannet, 1 Fulmar, 10 Sandwich Tern, 1 Common Tern and 1 auk sp. A few passerines were moving over the boat including 8 Meadow Pipit, 1 alba Wagtail, 5 House Martin and 6 Swallow. 2 Wheatears were at Newhaven harbour and a Black Redstart was at Dieppe.

An Angle Shades moth was on the ferry.

 Adult Gannet
 Third-calender year Gannet
 European Storm Petrels 
Day 2 Parc de Marquenterre

Literally the most annoying bird hides in the world with tiny mixed shapes to peer through. Other than that an excellent reserve and even better mussels for lunch in the restaurant.

Some nice birds including 40+ Spoonbill, 8 Cattle Egret, 1 Great White Egret, 4 Spotted Redshank, 6 Greenshank, 20+ Redshank, 80+ Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Ruff, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Sandpiper, 200+ Lapwing, 250+ Shoveler, 50+ Teal, 1 Pintail and 2 Kingfisher.

Some roadside pools  and the saltmarsh of the Baie were also birdy with 8 Black Tern and an Arctic Tern over one pool.

Tawny Owl in the campsite at night.

Only a couple of moths in the cold evenings- Dusky Thorn and a couple of Sqaure-spot Rustic.

 Adult and immature Spoonbill 
 Adults and juvenile Spoonbill 
Spotted Redshank and Common Redshanks

Day 3 L'hable D'Ault and Baie de Somme area 

Today we had lunch at Cayeux-sur-Mer and then drove along the track by L'able d'ault (which looks like a hunting reserve). Great White and Cattle Egrets, Black Swan, Sandwich and Common Tern, Black-necked Grebe, Mediterranean Gull and quite a few passerine migrants including 10+ Wheatear, 2 Whinchat, 5 Stonechat, 8 White Wagtail, 4 Yellow Wagtail and 10+ Mipit. A few Chaffinches were moving over during the day.

Had a drive north through forest villages and small farm holdings to Quend Plage and the early evening checked out the pools near Le Crotoy- only 2 Black Tern left. In the evening looked out over the Baie de Somme from Le Crotoy where there were Spoonbill and a large gull roost. 

 Juvenile Black Terns
 Cattle Egret

 Grey Partridge (adult top and juveniles above)

Day 4 Duffering around the camp site, lunch at Le Crotoy and dessert at Quend Plage

A day of complete 'shoot-me-if-I-ever' stuff with a walk round the campsite with the baby in the morning and the rest of the day doing tourist stuff. Secretly loved it! 

Despite the appalling behaviour still managed to get Black Woodpecker (calling), a possible Middle Spot, Tawny Owl, Crested Tit, good numbers of Chiffchaff and fly over Hawfinch at the campsite.

The moth trap was still quiet but better than other nights with a male Four-spotted Footman, Sallow, Dusky Thorn, Coronet, Tachystola.acroxantha, Agonopterix purpurea, Mint moth, Lesser Yellow Underwing and a Vestal in the day. 

Male Four-spotted Footman with distinctive dark shoulder bar
 and this Cricket sp.
Had this hybrid presumed Teal x Gadwall? at Le Crotoy
While on the subject of dodgy waterfowl, I thought I'd picked up White-fronted Goose flying over on the nocturnal sound recording but the sounds were so bizarre and clearly not flying over that I eventually concluded they must be some captive  geese somewhere. Mystery solved this morning when I came across the campsite wildfowl collection that included Greater and Lesser Whitefronts, Teals, Mallard and Tufted Duck. Was interesting to see the variation in the orbital ring from a Lesser White-fronted Goose (with it's diagnostic prominent yellow orbital ring)  to differences in the Greater White-fronts  (below- showing one bird with a pale yellow orbital ring to one with barely no orbital ring). Reminded me of THIS- so not sure if there is hybridisation going on or whether re: Collins guide variation in the orbital ring within Russian White-fronts (which these captive birds were presumably as pinks bills).
 In-distinctive orbital ring
Even less distinct orbital ring
Day 5 Dieppe to Newhaven 

A few birds on the return ferry crossing included 15+ Great Skua, 1 Arctic Skua, 11 Common Scoter, 3 Fulmar, 1 Kittiwake, 50+ Gannet and a steady trickle of Swallows moving across the Channel.

 Adult winter Arctic Skua- a younger bird would have barred underwing coverts. An all dark underwing is diagnostic of adults.
 Great Skua over the boat- good numbers on this crossing. This individual is not a juvenile (which would not be moulting). This moulting bird is 2 cy or older. Just visible are the brown-gold markings on the scapulars which are diagnostic of Great Skua from South Polar (all age classes would be moulting in the North Atlantic in September). 
Common Scoter
Scenery Shots 

  L'able d'ault
Baie de Somme from Le Crotoy

People Pics

Wouldn't be France without this. Must start listing my french cheeses too. 
 Baie de Somme is very close to Britain- just an hour north off Dieppe and a little further south of Calais harbour. Took us 1.15hr to get to Newhaven and then a pleasant 4 hour crossing. What a difference the Channel makes- Black Woodpeckers, Crested Tit, Spoonbills, Great White and Cattle Egrets etc and the Capitalists are in their place here too!
The Green spots mark the birding spots we found

Natterjack Toad (at the campsite facility block )
The last word from Jacob 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Chats, Chiffs and Sallows

Roger found a mystery crake this morning at the farmlands (probably a Spotted) so I popped over the farmlands for a  quick look. I had a crake like bird moving around the reeds where Roger had the bird this morning but just shape and movement. 

Nearby there were three Stonechats and two Whinchats, seven Snipe were flying around and there were at least ten Chiffchaff by the gate including a tristis-like bird. 

An Orange Sallow in the moth trap last night was the first I've had in a few years. 

With Sallow moths appearing and Stonechats coming in- it's feeling like mid-autumn. 

 Juvenile Stonechat 
 Male Stonechat 
 Tristis-like Chiffchaff 
Orange Sallow 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Birding Forecast week beginning 17th September- Looking East and West

Pretty much nailed last week's forecast (on the main feature being seabirds on British west coast) although might have been too soft on the extent of the potential for seabirds in the east especially considering that while looking for a yank wader I found  Red-necked and Grey Phalarope and inland Arctic Skua in London: Last week's prophecy here

An interesting week coming up. There's high pressure over much of central Europe and light winds over the North Sea. Looking west, hurricane Jose is moving north carving up the main migration routes on the eastern US seaboard and a large temperate depression forms over the North Atlantic that slams into the north west of Britain and Ireland. 

The high pressure over Europe and light winds over North sea means there is little obstacle to eastern vagrants heading this way- they often don't need a tail wind to get here (although that east winds help a lot) , many are programmed to come this way, what they don't need are obstacles and blocking systems- strong westerlies or fronts. 

So basically there could be interest from both sides although neither are classic conditions. It looks like the North Atlantic depression forms mid-Atlantic and is proceeded by a blocking high that is producing easterlies which could discourage birds moving away from Jose and into the Atlantic. However its a complex situation and looks pretty interesting and more so it's September and there are vagrants trying to get to all kinds of random pre-programmed destinations and many will fight agaisnt any conditions to get to somewhere completely random which in some cases is more dangerous than the journey to get there. Additionally there are the weakened birds that are true storm blown vagrants too and this week there is scope for these different types of vagrancy. 

High pressure over Europe and light winds over North Sea- the road is more of less clear for vagrants heading east over Central Asia and Europe. 
 Magic Seaweed Map, Tuesday 19th September. Hurricanes still causing havoc in south east US. That high centred off Newfoundland is producing easterlies as it connects with Jose, presumably pushing any storm blown birds back towards the US. 
 Magic Seaweed forecast, Thursday 21st September . By late week there is a complete conduit on westerlies from the southern flank of Jose along the base of the North Atlantic depression and straight to SW England and Ireland.
Magic Seaweed forecast, Friday 21st September. By Friday the main system has moved north- presumably more interesting seabirding as that storms hits the North West.

The jet stream is well south- could be providing passages for high flying migrants to the European coast.

Local/ Beddington/London:
Raptors: Calm days with sun could produce some raptor passage. 
Passerine/landbird migrants: Not expecting too much in the way of drift migrants without cloud and east winds but could be a passage of hirundines and mipits and other migrants leaving Britain. Early part of the week has light north easterlies and cloud so that could be interesting. 
Waders: It's peak time for waders. Wouldn't expect a fall but could be the odd interesting bird. Habitat at Staines is perfect for a yank wader and a regular turn over of waders that would normally move overhead unseen. 
Waterfowl: Waterfowl numbers could continue to increase.
Gulls: Not expecting too much here- the odd Caspian gull last week at the Beddington.
Seabirds: There's a lot been displaced from last week's storms so still might be the odd one moving around.

Britain and Ireland
Migrant falls: Wouldn't except much apart from a steady trickle after the first part of the week where there are light north east winds and cloud belts moving across the North Sea. 
Eastern vagrants: More interest in this department with hopefully birds on the out islands. 
American vagrants:  It's mid-September there's hurricanes carving up the eastern US coastline and by late week there's a complete westerly conveyor belt of air moving across the Atlantic. Its looking better for a yank in Britain than the Azores maybe? 
Seabirds: By the end of the week action could resume in the North West. 
Raptors : Light winds and high pressure is pretty good to keep these chaps on the go. 

Western Palearctic
Eastern Vagrants:  Should expect a steady trickle across the British out islands and Northern Europe. 
American Vagrants:  Ireland and North West Britain looking best. Could get yank waders along the European coastline with such as southerly jet stream. 
Migration: The high pressure conditions will undoubtedly be utilised by migrants to make good progress southwards. In the high pressure conditions could be good for nocturnal migration and arrivals at regular stop over sites. The early part of the week looks best for any drift and falls. 

Rarity Finding Strategy:
Local: Check for waders and pray for an American wader. Keep an eye on Staines and the Thames Estuary. Keep eyes up for a raptor. Early week could be interesting for drift migrants. 
UK: The Hebrides and Ireland are looking promising for yanks. The Northern isles and north east coast are looking pretty promising for eastern vagrants. East coast early week for drift migrants. 
WP: Can't go wrong by being based on Outer Hebs looking for a yank, Northern Isles and Spurn etc looking for a eastern vagrant. Nocturnal migration could be interesting along European continental coastline and chance of american waders across a wide area. Not looking great for the Azores. 

Day out with boys and a new toy

Finally upgraded my camera to a Canon 7D mark 2 (thanks to Lee Dingain) and went out yesterday with the boys to try it out. First went to Oare Marshes and then Beddington in the afternoon. 

 Jacob and Sid outside the farmlands 
 Osprey distantly over Sheppey from Oare. 
 Juvenile/first winter Common Gull (top right) and juvenile/first winter Mediterranean following
 Redshank in flight- this is what I was hoping would be more achievable with the mark 2- more rapid focusing and faster shutter speeds. 
 Sea Aster flowering in Oare Creek  
 Male Stonechat at Beddington- the first of the autumn 
 Blackcap male taken from about 30 meters away- mark 2 looks sharper
Red Underwing- the highlight of the Beddington trap in last week or so. Species diversity is reducing with the trap dominated by Square-spot Rustic, Pale Mottled Willow, Willow Beauty, Garden Carpet, Lesser Yellow Underwing and Setaceous Hebrew Character.