Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A few good terns

Last weekend I was mainly doing terns. Spent a lot of time looking at reeds, trees, and the sky. I calculate since Norfolk I have spent roughly 20 hours looking at reeds, with not a lot to show for it.  Brief glimpses of a Savi's that easily could have been a Reed Warbler, glimpses of a Reed Warbler that was definitely not a Great Reed Warbler, looking at a strangely acting Reed Warbler trying to spin it to something a tad rarer, and besides all that actually looking for a Reed Warbler! Defies all logic.

Spent a good few hours looking at trees for a Greenish Warbler too, and what I did see there, after it finally decided to sing was so brief and poor that could have easily been a Reed Warbler too.

The terns were the star turns of the weekend, starting on Friday with Common and Sandwich having a divergence of feelings at Lodmoor, a very smart pair of White-winged Black Tern at Stodmarsh and another twitch of 3 Black Tern on the Lockwood on Sunday.  Even twitched a Common Tern (2) on the patch. Go figure!

Happily I finally caught up with a Little Owl, even if I had to get the car turned round after Professor Whiteman spotted it out of the passenger window, and I finished the weekend on a high by tracking down another none showing Warbler, a gropper this time, up the Lea Valley.

Warblers! Maybe I'll pass through Hartlepool on Friday on my way back up to Scotland if a little Orphean has stuck around. Equally though I would love to catch up with one of the number of singing Marsh or even an Icterine. Or a shrike......

And the Black Terns? the pictures were so woeful even I couldn't live with them.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Fochabers to Barmouth and all the way back

My last day in Scotland for a couple of weeks and I decided, for want of anything better, to take the river path from the wonderfully named Fochabers to the coast along the Spey. A glorious mix of deciduous and pine and in parts sandy heath, and aways within earshot of the fast moving Spey.  One of the information boards explained that the Spey is the fastest moving of all UK rivers and when in flood could move the equivalent of hundreds of road tankers by the minute.  A bit like living on the Romford Road then.

It reminded me of a an arctic river in some respects, with heaped gravel bars and tree strewn shallows, a cold wind helped - but the sun shone.  I was enjoying myself immensely even if I did take more than one dead end track down to the river bank.

Just to the south of Barmouth the old railway line cuts across the flood plain, all that remains is the old iron bridge with its slightly dodgy walkway.  This testament to the folly of the Beeching cuts gave glorious views towards the sea and south into the highlands.  It also gave great views of a Common Sandpiper, Dipper, Tern and a flyover Osprey.

I had a quick look at the sea, but the icy wind put paid to any lengthy vigil, even with all my extra clothing on, so I opted for a quick cupper at the Dolphin Trust's cafe and made my way back slowly to Fochabers, the bus, the train and Aberdeen.

With time to kill before the last train home I took a taxi to Girdle Ness for a quick sea watch behind the lighthouse out of the wind. Gannets, auks, a calling Purple Sandpiper down on the rocks below and a few Scoter out at sea, but none of the skuas I had hoped for. In the shelter of the harbour, porpoises with a calf were leaping from the choppy waters - a rather satisfying conclusion to a great trip; 120 + species seen, 3 lifers and c. 10 year ticks, I will, however, not be looking at my credit card statement this month...