A really good feel to the day but found nothing of any magnitude. The rain combined with a strong SE wind brought in a Continental Coal Tit which was only my second ever on Seaford Head, which made up for nothing else found despite spending most daylight hours in the field. I popped over to Beachy for an hour as Tony Cook had found a showy Pallas's in the old trapping area, but upon arrival it was evident the bird had moved on, however three Continental Coal Tits flew in but all too soon departed off west. A nice day out, maybe tomorrow for my last chance of finding something this autumn.
Totals for Seaford Head:
Continental Coal Tit - 1 vocal bird in Hope Gap
Brambling - 2
Goldcrest - 40
Chiffchaff - 2
Redpoll - 1 Snow Bunting - 1 still by dung heap tho elusive at times
Beachy Head: Continental Coal Tit - 3 together by old trapping area
Firecrest - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
presumed male (very vocal with sub-song and calling heard)Continental Coal Tit in Hope Gap - this bird soon departed off north but was later re-located in Harry's Bush where it showed much better, but due to the rain, my camera was in my bag.
three Continental Coal Tits at Beachy Head
one of three Black Redstarts in the garden
1w Snow Bunting still present mid-afternoon but more elusive
Although conditions weren't ideal this morning, I walked pretty much the whole of the Headland. Not much about but enough to keep me interested. The highlight was finding a Snow Bunting by the dung heap. A seawatch afterwards produced very little.
Finished work very early this morning so I decided to go up Seaford Head. However on the way a phonecall from Geoff soon sent me over to Beachy for an interesting Treecreeper, which shows a range of positive features for being a Short-toed Treecreeper. Annoyingly, the bird was incredibly elusive for the time I was there, showing for two minutes during my five hour visit. Luckily, John Cooper who found this bird managed to capture a series of shots, of which a couple can be seen below with some annotations, and hopefully not too repetitive from DC's and RJF's blog.
Since the sighting I have worked, but have now had plenty of time to personally go through the wing formula, more so to convince myself (and understand it as for me I was very confused for a while), as field views (although promising at the time) are not hard evidence. A couple of long hours comparing images, matching up articles etc, below are my personal notes on this bird. Features missed out have been mentioned on the blogs mentioned above.
As mentioned above, the first three pictures below are those taken by JFC. All highlighted captions are those that I've referred to in one of the Birding World articles kindly pointed out by Jake Gearty.
the blackish bar on the outer four secondaries is consistent in width, but this feature would have been better backed up if the wing was more spread. All photos of the bird the angle appears the same.
(heavily cropped image of the above image concentrating on the wing-bar)
dis-regarding the obvious plumage features, I have spent a lot of time looking at the wing-bar and to work out the overlap of pale bars between P6,7 &8. P6 from the outer edge of the wing and working into the centre of the wing, it is quite clear that the overlap of pale bars on P7 &P8 are about equal with the overlap on P7 &P6. I concentrated on the phrase 'about equal' as there is nothing really comparable, until photos of Common Treecreeper were looked at, and this showed the above overlaps being far from equal, somewhat convincing myself that the picture above fits well into the 'measurements' for a Short-toed Treecreeper.
Another strong feature for Short-toed are the distal edges of pale bars on the outer webs on P6-P8 are clearly pointed. Common Treecreeper would show a more rectangular shape.
the longest tertial with its relatively 'dark' inner webs, all dark outer web contrast very nicely with the strong pale tip.
P7 lacks the pale fringe coming off the white spot onto the outer webs which Common Treecreeper would show, in fact the spot is pretty much a spot with the only fringe slightly forming on the inner web.
The rather plain brown forehead lacking any white streaks is certainly a favourable feature for Short-toed.
Short-toed Treecreeper (?) at Beachy Head
I'm certainly in no position to say this bird is 100% a Short-toed Treecreeper, but based on what I've managed to work out for myself after several long headaches I can't see any real reason why it isn't one. In terms of wing formula, the only hesitation for me is the primary tips and how they are spaced out from each other, but again looking at a series of photos on the web, there is in theory nothing wrong with this. Combine all this with the plumage features which are subjective, they do still fit well for Short-toed. So there you go!!
News of a Bluethroat at Beachy soon sent me over that way, somewhat disturbing my rest from yesterday's marathon. Thankfully, though frustratingly, it took over two hours for the bird to show, and by the time I had got on it, the showing lasted about three seconds. Having seen a similarly plumaged bird on Shetland a few weeks ago, that was enough for me so I retreated back home. It was a very smart individual however, and a much welcome county tick.
When news broke of the Wilson's Warbler I felt sure to myself that twitching Lewis wasn't going to materialise. Come Thursday and the first pictures emerge of this very striking transatlantic vagrant, leaving me in a state of unrest, and after much thought, a wise phone call to Paula (basically stating I'll be a grumpy git if I don't go) got me booking flights and arranging the next few days that lay ahead.
male Wilson's Warbler on Lewis
If a twitch isn't tense enough, my easyjet flight from Gatwick to Inverness was on a standby ticket, meaning I wasn't guaranteed travel until everyone had boarded the aircraft. Fortunately there were a couple of spare seats and I soon arrived at Inverness airport. As my Flybe flight was in the early morning, I thought it was best to kip outside the terminal. I looked at the weather and this seemed feasible so I did just that, finding a nice cosy wooden bench! Annoyingly the one bit of weather I failed to look at was the temperature, which turned out to be 0 Celsius. It's fair to say I've had better nights sleep, and the security guards obviously felt the same as they gave me a couple of hot drinks through the night. When my body got a little bit frosty, mercifully the terminal doors opened where I was able to defrost, have a wash, and very soon boarded my flight to Stornoway. The flight was very pleasant with superb views all the way of the various valleys, lochs and stretches of ragged coastlines. A slight bit of unrest ensued when the captain stated the weather was calm and clear, not what I wanted one bit......a hurricane would have been ideal.
After landing on the Isle of Lewis I grabbed a cab, and set off to Port Nis situated near the northern tip of the island. A quick check of my phone and the bird was still present, though the taxi driver must have thought I was mad when I continually fist pumped the car several times and went into a state of pure excitement.
the dense gardens that the Warbler favoured
The finder (Tony Marr) greeted me in Port Nis and led me to the garden where the Warbler had favoured, and after a tense two hour vigil of staring at non-native trees and plants, the bird came into view and showed well briefly. However during the course of the next hour the Warbler was fairly active and was also calling a couple of times. Over the next 6 hours I was totally overwhelmed by the views I got, and even more so the pictures I somehow managed to get. Everytime it showed was like the first time it showed with the intense yellow body making everyone gasp. An absolutely stunning bird enjoyed by all present, including my good friend Ewan who very kindly gave me a lift back to Stornoway where I stayed the night in a youth hostel. A celebratory curry and cider was also had with some lads from Gloucester and South Wales to end the day in style.
The next morning now feeling completely relaxed went very smoothly. A ferry crossing to Ullapool (a Minke Whale being the highlight), a coach to Inverness, a bus to the airport and then my flight back to Gatwick. All in all an amazing adventure, one of my all time birds in the UK and also met lots of great people. A fantastic twitch!!
Highlights for the trip then:
WILSON'S WARBLER - 1 male
Yellow-browed Warbler - 1
Goldcrest - 2
Barnacle Geese - ca. 100 flew South
Merlin - 1
Arctic Skua - 3
Black Guillemot - 1
Minke Whale - 1
Common Dolphin - 30
Harbour Porpoise - 25
initial views started like this........
but then got better.......
and much much better!!
views from around Port Nis
skeins of Barnacle Geese were observed migrating south throughout the day
I sacrificed a morning on the patch to visit The Burgh with Paula in the hope the Pallid Harrier would show. We arrived above North Stoke at 10am and walked around and waited in different areas up until 1pm where we decided to give up walk down to Burpham to have a pub lunch.....very nice it was to! As soon as we sat down the Pallid appeared and had reportedly landed in a field.
Me thinking it would soon fly off didn't happen, and after another hour it was still sat there just as we had finished our meals and Paula had downed her last bit of wine (a bit of motivation given by me no doubt). So we set off on a brisk walk all the way back up to the dew pond and thankfully the bird was still present, but as soon as the scope had been set up the bird took flight, done a couple of flypasts and went off down the valley, not to be seen again. Very lucky!!
juvenile Pallid Harrier at The Burgh. A tiny bit of deja-vu seeing the first county Pallid Harrier back at this same spot in 2011. After not going for the Unst bird this autumn, it was nice to catch up with this bird, being the 2nd county record.
Couldn't have asked for better conditions this morning, it was so calm and sunny and this prompted a steady movement of Finches up until mid-morning. Unfortunately couldn't find any Yellow-browed, but still a decent enough morning with plenty to see.
Totals are as follows with all Finches, Larks, Buntings & Wagtails moving east unless otherwise stated.
Ring Ouzel - 1 adult in Hope Gap
Red-legged Partridge - 3
Goldcrest - 39
Chiffchaff - 97
Siskin - 52
Redpoll - 30
Goldfinch - 553
Chaffinch - 13
Crossbill - 7 W
'alba' Wagtail - 26
Grey Wagtail - 2
Blackcap - 22
Skylark - 4
Ring-necked Parakeet - 1 E accompanied by 2 Jackdaw!!!
Reed Bunting - 2
Swallow - 22
House Martin - 17
a rubbish photo taken from a tiny window at the back of an A320 showing Seaford Head (just left of centre), and Beachy Head further to the right.
Moderate southerly winds were enough to entice me down for a seawatch. Was generally quiet though was very surprised to see a European Storm Petrel heading east about a mile out. A very strange time of year for one of these, especially here in the east of the county, but thankfully views were good and prolonged.
Totals are - 08.35-09.35 Wind SSE 3-4:
European Storm Petrel - 1E at 8.45
Teal - 4
Gannet - ca. 20
Chiffchaff - 30
Goldcrest - 3
Swallow - 15
House Martin - 2
Weather - moderate SW wind and high cloud. First time in the week I've seen Fair Isle!
The final day and my final walk around the Hoswick area. Generally quiet with an obvious clear out following the calm night, however there was a steady passage of Pipits moving south. Managed to dig out a Tree Sparrow feeding with House Sparrows which got me excited not knowing how significant this was. It turns out it's an uncommon migrant in autumn, and Mike Pennington was quick to point out that's it's my best find in the week (by far better than a Rosefinch and 2 Barred's)......not sure if that's a good thing or not! I birded up til the point I had no choice but to catch the ferry back, and the last garden I checked, a Yellow-browed popped out. A great ending.
Willow Warbler - 1
Tree Sparrow - 1 Hoswick
Fieldfare - 1
Redwing - 6
Pink-footed Geese - 18
Yellow-browed Warbler - 8
Red-breasted Flycatcher - 1
Siskin - 4
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Merlin - 1
It could have been a much better week, however when you look back it's not too bad, with the following highlights seen:
Weather - morning was very windy and heavy drizzle, though around lunchtime, oddly the weather cleared and the afternoon was very pleasant.
My last full day so I again headed out to west mainland where I came across lots of very good looking habitat, so good infact I wish I had more time there. Still plenty of Yellow-browed's being found, and finally I caught up with the Arctic Warbler. An enjoyable day once again.
Yellow-browed Warbler - 15
Scaup - 1 drk Norby
Jack Snipe - 1
Siskin - 1
Sanderling - 4
Arctic Warbler - 1 Cott
Red-throated Diver - 1
Mediterranean Gull - 1 Weisdale
Willow Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1 Lerwick
Redwing - 1
Pink-footed Geese - 15
Whooper Swan - 2
Arctic Warbler at Cott
Dale of Walls
the valley where the Lanceolated was seen a few days previous