Friday, 15 March 2013

Winds Of Change

I woke this morning at 5.30 and opened the back door to be greeted by the wind, as my back door faces south it meant a southerly was blowing and a welcome change from the freezing northerlies of the last week, so a quick coffee and cigarette and I was out on the cliffs on the bike.
As often happens on the first morning after a decent switch of wind direction there was a little visible migration going, best was a calling Woodlark over the flint folly and this was joined by 40 or so Chaffinches all heading NW. Woodlark is annual here for me and I have seen them both in Spring and Autumn every year since I've been here. Stonechats were present too and 3 birds were noted with 2 working their way along the cliff edge scrub and 1 further round the coast near the Digby pub. Quite a productive hour or so and I'm looking forward to my 3 day spell of birding this weekend.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Moffing Tales

Some of you may know I had a passion for moths in the nineties and some pretty fine catches too, I can recall some very exciting moments and given the lack of birds at the moment I'd thought I would share a couple with you.
The first good moth to be taken at the trap site on the downs east of Herne Bay was a Red-headed Chestnut in November 1995, this was plucked from the wall outside the trap as I came home from work and promptly put in the fridge for closer examination, I felt sure I had the genuine article and phoned local moth guru Tony Harman, I didn't know him at all really and likewise he'd probably not heard of me either, so it was no surprise that his tone on the phone was sceptical when I announced I had taken C. erythrocephala, in fact I think he suspected I was on some mind bending drugs as there had only been 2-3 records in the last century! He listened to my description and made arrangements to come over the next evening to have a look. He arrived on cue and I led him to the fridge and produced the moth, he took out his lens and began to grill the moth closely, that look on his face when, after what seemed like a decade, it sunk in that it was indeed the real deal is something I'll never forget, I'm almost sure his legs buckled with excitement and his hands began to tremble. It was the start of a good friendship that saw Tony become a regular visitor to the house over the coming two or three years.
This was followed in 1996 by the massive moth migration that began in June of that year, with a large arrival of Bordered Straws and two nights later a Striped Hawk Moth which even got a comment from Mr Solly when I telephoned the news to him, a simple one word answer "bastard" I seem to recall was the reply. Anyone who trapped in 1996 will testify it was immense and it just kept on coming, the Great Brocade started in August and I took ten plus and among them was an Angle-striped Sallow a Kent mega and as far as I know there hasn't been a Kent one since. Silver Barred, Ni Moth, Mere Wainscot, 20+ Convolvulus Hawks, 100 Bordered Straws, 14 Scarce Bordered Straws, Gems and multiple 1,000's of Silver Y which peaked on one night with over 2,000 around the trap, that was the only time I felt odd around the trap, the buzzing wings of thousands of moths around my head was so weird and became unbearable I had to go in feeling a little dizzy. I could go on about 1996 for ages but that gives a flavour of what a special year it was.
1997 started with arctic conditions and a slight thaw began to arrive in mid-January and in some moment of delusion I fired up the trap, next morning with snow on the ground and still a bitter chill, there was a Sword-grass, the first Kent record since 1968 and still the only one since then, bizarre record, where did that come from and it still baffles me to this day!
The next couple of years my enthusiasm waned as I lost the trap site and briefly I got some limited use of the site over the next couple of years and managed Plumed Fan-foot, Porters Rustic, Langmaids Yellow Underwing, Dewick's Plusia and a much wanted White-marked.
I do have to admit that I really enjoyed my moffing times but with the loss of such an important site it was never going to be the same, a bit like birding at Minsmere on tap then moving to Derby city centre, it was never going to be this good for me again. Well that is it, my brief encounter with the moffing world was enjoyable and fruitful.

Monday, 11 March 2013

White Winger Again

The weather forecast for today was for bitterly cold easterly gales and snow showers, it was very much spot on with a bone crushing wind blasting in from the east, which made birding very uncomfortable and having decided yesterday that there may well be a decent gull movement I headed, painfully, to the hut at Palm Bay as this would give at least a little shelter from the freezing wind. I could see masses of gulls hovering over Cliftonville and they were slowly making their way eastwards towards me. Good numbers passed through and coupled with a later afternoon visit the final totals were approx. 1 Glaucous Gull (2CY), c90 each of Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls, c500 Herring Gulls, 43 Kittiwakes and 2 Mediterranean Gulls. Quite impressive to watch.
Spring migrants were the last thing on my mind to be honest but I was surprised to find two newly arrived Black Redstarts along the stretch around the bowling greens, one a handsome male.
2CY Glaucous Gull Foreness 11th March 2013

Saturday, 9 March 2013

White Wags

The first 2 White Wagtails were on the grass along the cliff top along with a decent arrival of Pieds first thing and a migrant female Stonechat was also found. Winter returns from this evening so I might take advantage with a few extra hours in bed before we get going again.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Grey Day

A good start to the early morning sessions continued with a Grey Partridge which was present on the cliff-top very early, a real bonus bird and now very rare up here, a singing Corn Bunting also crept onto the year list and there not that common either. A good morning for gull movement east and several argentatus were noted in amongst the ordinary argenteus birds.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

It Begins

Up at 5.45 and out on the cliff path by 6.15 on a cracking morning, chilly it was but it felt a whole lot more pleasant than yesterday morning and could well turn into the warmest day of the year so far if the sun keeps shining.

A good few birds to be seen as well and they included the first migrant Stonechat of the spring a smart male and the first Stonechat here since October last year, I'm sure they used to winter here but alas not anymore. A Snipe was flushed from scrubby cliff edge and again they're not common here at all. 4 adult Mediterranean Gulls were noted with 1 on the slopes and 3 east with a decent movement of Black-headed Gulls, in fact gulls appear to be moving through at present and there are more around at the moment than the whole of the winter period.
Skylarks were going over too and 12 were counted high in the blue sky and 14 Siskin did the same, calling a lot to help locate them in the bright skies. A good gathering of Crows on the golf course included 2 Rooks and 6 Jackdaws along with 27 Carrion Crows. The first Stock Doves of the spring too with 23 counted going over. Roll on tomorrow....

Monday, 4 March 2013

Gull Fest Monday

Ironically Monday is the only day the title doesn't fit because that is my rest day that I get every week and take of course, this morning was sunny but still very cool in the freshening easterly wind and it didn't feel much like spring, 7 Skylarks flew east and 2 Siskins went over east too. A couple of Jackdaws hung around Whiteness and were probably migrants. I had spent two hours out and after some thought I made the desicion to go home and wait for the milder air to arrive tomorrow morning along with the hoped for spring migrants.
At around midday I decided to give the new bicycle a good thrashing, as I needed to adjust the gears, 21 in all, as the screws that control them needed some slight adjustments so all 21 gears would work freely. I had bombed up to Foreness when I spotted a huge white gull coming in from the west, I put the bins on it, a brute of a Glaucous Gull, it touched down on the rocks below Foreness pumping station and I cut down the narrow steep path to the beach below to view. I had been watching the Glaucous for some two minutes when another bird appeared in view behind it, a Caspian Gull, a 2cy bird and very smart too, a real beauty and all the features were there, certainly no doubt with this one a real 10/10 scored on all relevant ID features,
Then the fun begins as I didn't have the camera with me, expensive photographic equipment and rough, bumping coastal cycling don't really mix but I'll have to come up with a solution before long as I feel a camera is very much a tool that will soon become a virtual must in verification of rare/scarce species. The phone call to the other half pleading to bring out the camera was fraught with danger but had to be tried and it duly worked, I thank the other half for doing this but as I waited the tide began to advance at an alarming rate and the gulls were slowly but surely leaving and flying off eastwards. I could see the other half along the cliff edge some half a mile way pacing towards me but the inevitable happened the Caspian took flight and as if to rub it in gave me a close fly past with 3 Herring Gulls in tow, as it headed east along the coast towards Whiteness rocks. The Glaucous was clearly getting ready to go too and as the camera and exhausted missus arrived I had five minutes to record the event before the Glaucous too made a break for it. A great bit of entertainment and once again a huge thanks to the missus, you're a star.
Glaucous Gull @ Foreness