Having not seen a Black Guillemot for a few years, I thought it was a must after seeing the Chequered Skipper that I popped down the road and see these lovely birds, that are nesting on the promenade wall.
Having come back from America and seen very little in the way of birds, my mind turned to Butterflies, and in particular a species that has always been cast to one side in previous years, mainly due to time of year as birds normally take over. The Chequered Skipper of NW/W Scotland is only one of two species I'm still yet to see in the UK, and therefore I hatched a plan for Tuesday to day twitch this butterfly. The weather appeared to be ok, with Monday being grim and working Wednesday this could be my only opportunity this year.
My BA flight from LGW arrived in GLA just before 9am, and I swiftly got through to Avis car rental and set off just before 9.30am. The journey was 2 hours, but could've been much quicker if it wasn't for the constant lorries and caravans doing half the speed limit alongside Loch Lomond. Two Ospreys circling low above the road alongside the Loch seemed a good omen.
I arrived at Glasdrum Woods NNR (situated between Oban and Fort William) at 11.30am which allowed me 2.5 hours before I had to start heading back towards Glasgow. Thankfully however, a two minute show of the sun was enough for my first Chequered Skipper to take flight where it quickly landed on some bracken and I made the most of it just incase it was my only one. As I walked the stretch underneath the power cables (now being joined by Dave Cook from Burgess Hill......small world) I must've seen another 10-15 individuals, all of which were near enough in perfect condition. The constant cloud cover with short periods of sunlight was brilliant as this allowed the Skippers to fly around but then quickly land again and be dosile enough for a close approach. Also present were a couple of Pearl Bordered Fritillaries and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries. After many photos of the Skippers I decided to quickly head down to Oban and photograph the Black Guillemots before making my way back to Glasgow Airport for a well deserved beer. My easyJet flight back to LGW only landed ten minutes late and I arrived home at 9pm.
A very successful and pleasing twitch to one of my favourite areas.
A short post outlining the Warbler species seen last week. A total of 29 species of Warbler were encountered, and also a drastic change in numbers of certain species was witnessed, and have been outlined below.
The weather had a dramatic effect on the species seen and numbers present. The first half was dominated by NE winds, which although can produce, they can also halt migration further south and that's exactly what happened. However, by the 15th winds had switched to S and with the warmer weather came more birds. It seems the third week of May is the most productive, and our trip coincided with this theory, helped by the weather and the initial poor spring up until we arrived.
1) Ovenbird - seen only on three dates and only in single figures, including one bird at Tawas Point. This ground dwelling species was difficult to pick up and no doubt some were missed.
2) Northern Waterthrush - seen only on one date where two birds were found, which was certainly a surprise. A Waterthrush sp. was seen briefly at Maumee but couldn't be specified to species.
3) Protonotary Warbler - seen daily at Magee Marsh but numbers never exceeded 4 birds on any visit. At least 2 birds were nest building or occupying nests. It's only until recently this species has been a common occurrence at Magee, thought to be a result from climate change.
4) Black-and-white Warbler - seen almost daily but again numbers remained in single figures. A superb critter and great to see its feeding action.
5) Golden-winged Warbler - this stonking male was seen on 15/5 and was our only sighting of this declining species. A much wanted bird for me.
6) Blue-winged Warbler - only three adult males were found, on three separate dates and locations, with two picked up by their obvious song.
7) Orange-crowned Warbler - only seen during the second half of the trip with our first at Tawas Point, with others at Magee Marsh, but still in low numbers.
8) Tennessee Warbler - a single bird was found on our first full day among a decent fall of migrants, but it wasn't until late on in the trip where a few more were seen, and always caused greater interest amongst the gathered crowd.
9) Nashville Warbler - very common during the first half of the trip and proved to be an unprecedented spring migration for this species. Numbers certainly dropped off towards the end of our stay with the last day producing just one Nashville.
10) Mourning Warbler - four birds were found and proved to be a highlight of the trip. This ground dwelling species was typically difficult to intercept initially but thankfully we got good views. This species is normally later on then most other species migrating.
11) Common Yellowthroat - our first sighting was on the 13th then birds were seen frequently up until we left. Daily counts just about reached into double figures.
12) American Redstart - most days from the off we encountered only males and in single figures, but from the 17th onwards females outnumbered males and counts must have reached the 40 mark.
13) Cape May Warbler - only six birds were found including two at Tawas Point. A very striking Warbler that kept mostly to treetops. Only occurred during a decent fall of migrants.
14) Kirtland's Warbler - we saw three Warblers, all in suitable Jack Pine Forest in Huron National Forest. This declining species is holding on thanks to conservation efforts. We had the choice of going on a guided trip for this bird but decided to use the trusty ebird instead.
15) Cerulean Warbler - another declining species of Warbler seen on this trip. Despite 11 birds being seen at Waterloo State RA we only found one singing male, where eventually good views were had.
16) Northern Parula - seen almost daily in relatively small numbers. Some fine males were seen very well.
17) Magnolia Warbler - this spectacular species was seen daily and towards the end of the trip 20+ birds were seen two days running. Could never tire of seeing the males.
18) Blackburnian Warbler - a bird I've been wanting to see for years and they didn't disappoint. Seen daily in good numbers throughout the duration, and at times showed superbly.
19) Yellow Warbler - seen daily in good numbers and also a breeding species around the shores of Lake Erie. Our first few days also saw many birds on passage, as numbers slowly decreased towards the end of our stay.
20) Chestnut-sided Warbler - although seen daily numbers remained consistent throughout.
21) Black-throated Blue Warbler - single figures throughout with females starting to be seen on our last few days.
22) Blackpoll Warbler - first seen on the 14th at Tawas Point where only two males were present. Males were then seen frequently up until we left where a couple of females then started to arrive.
23) Bay-breasted Warbler - seen daily in small numbers and mostly males. Over ten birds were seen in four hours on the 17th, including this breeding plumaged female below.
24) Pine Warbler - seen only on the 14th in the dense pine forests in Michigan. Much brighter birds then shown in the book.
25) Palm Warbler - the first half of the trip saw reasonable numbers but by the end numbers had slipped away to just a couple of sightings, and then to no sightings on our last morning.
26) Black-throated Green Warbler - a common species where numbers fluctuated throughout. The first half of the trip saw mainly males but by the end females were encountered frequently.
27) Wilson's Warbler - only appeared late on in our trip. Maximum numbers for a day just about reached half a dozen.
28) Myrtle Warbler - by far the commonest Warbler during the first two days and also up at Tawas Point, but numbers significantly dropped and few, if any were seen in the remaining few days.
29) Canada Warbler - a very much wanted bird and after a long wait we were greeted with many birds but still in single figures. A stunning Warbler and certainly a highlight.
Our last day today but most of it would be driving back towards Chicago, although thankfully our flight was late evening and therefore gave us plenty of time to bird Magee Marsh in the morning, where conditions were the same as yesterday, being a strong southerly wind and bright conditions. Our final morning drive was again enlivened by the brilliant 'Bob and Tom Show' on WIOT radio station. At Magee, we first walked the estuary trail where five Spotted Sandpipers were found along the beach, and the bushes held the usual Warblers and Flycatchers seen in previous days. Back on the boardwalk, we straight away came across a couple of Tennessee Warblers and Cape May Warbler, both new additions from yesterday. Due to the wind, most birds were keeping low down and once again provided great opportunities for photos. It was interesting to note our first female Black-throated Blue Warblers today, and not a single Mrytle Warbler. Despite spending the whole time looking at the ground, we couldn't find a Connecticut Warbler.
We left late morning but just as the trip started off with numerous issues, something was bound to happen on the last day, and that's what happened. The same railway crossing I had taken off from at the start of the trip was coming into sight and decided to give it one more go and sped up towards the crossing, but then I wimped out and slowed down. However during the process of speeding up a police officer caught me and I was soon pulled over (not the first time on an Eade tour). But what happened next was ridiculous, the copper was all bubbly and friendly towards us, asked us about birding, saw my licence and then couldn't be bothered to phone it through to headquarters, then shook my hand and sent us on our way with just one sentence relevant to the incident, 'you were speeding'. All drama but that's what makes a trip.
We left the Motel 6 and headed west back to Chicago stopping at Pokagon State Park in Indiana and found a couple of nice bits, the best probably being a Purple Finch, and a cute Racoon up a tree. The traffic was back to the airport was heavy but we made with plenty of time to spare for our American Airlines flight back to LHR where we landed early.
Yet another superb trip had come to an end. Ian and Adam were brilliant company as always and together we saw a total of 168 species, of which 29 were American Wood Warblers, which was the main reason for going in the first place.
It wasn't a mega spring passage by any standards however we still witnessed some very good days, including a couple thought to be the best of the spring up to that point. We also lucked in on a fantastic afternoon at Tawas Point.
Our last fall day of the trip and it started off as it did yesterday. The isolated location at Maumee Bay was again very productive, and although Warbler activity was less today, a much deserved Black-billed Cuckoo was found, and was later seen with a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the same tree.
We briefly stopped at the main reserve on the way back and took a quick look at the Eastern Screech Owls but they hadn't changed their position.
The entire day was then spent at Magee Marsh where another decent fall of birds had occurred, though today it was mainly American Redstarts, Magnolia Warblers and Empidonax Flycatchers, which all things considering was a nice chance from Nashville and Yellow Warblers. Also what was noted today were plenty of female Warblers moving through.
We met Dick Filby along the estuary trail who had seen a Connecticut Warbler and so we spent a bit of time searching for this, however we were soon drawn back towards the boardwalk of Magee for some awesome (catching onto the American language) views of Magnolia Warblers.
A fitting last fall day with plenty of migrant activity and a couple of lifers, though tomorrow we still have ten hours of birding before driving back to Chicago so who knows what we'll see.
This morning we started at Maumee Marsh at an isolated spot away from the crowds, and also known as a hot spot first thing in the morning. And for once the yanks were right (predictions for weather and migrant activity being very poor), we enjoyed a brilliant couple of hours where a constant flow of American Wood Warblers, Flycatchers and Thrushes were moving bank inland (helped by some scary clouds out over the lake). One of the first Warblers of the day was a Mourning Warbler and this was quickly followed by 14 other species of Warbler. Another firm highlight was an Empidonax Flycatcher that showed well and thankfully called revealing itself as a Willow Flycatcher.
We then moved to Pearson Metropark where four species of Thrush were on offer as well as a large flock of Warblers, which surprisingly mainly consisted of Bay-breasted Warblers.
Our plan now was to use the wifi near Magee for any recent sightings, though it appeared quiet so we took the plunge to drive back into Michigan to Waterloo State RA to search for yet another Warbler, this time a Cerulean. Double figures had been reported on ebird so we felt confident, but after nearly an hour of searching we saw nout. Though driving slowly through the forest road I heard one high up and we got lovely views of a Cerulean Warbler , and some bonus Yellow-throated Vireos. We failed on Hooded Warbler annoyingly. Next up was an area for Bobolinks near Monroe and we successfully saw 5-6 birds straight away, with some displaying.
Last but not least was Magee Marsh and although late afternoon there was still plenty of activity and some great photo opportunities. A Common Nighthawk was a bonus 'life bird' to end another exhausting day that yielded a fine total of 22 species of Warbler.