Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A dirty twitch

The long drive from Glasgow airport to my family home in Cambridgeshire was broken with a few hours spent at Spurn to see a juv Masked Shrike (only Britain's third record).  The bird showed well, hunting along a hedgerow filled with ripe haws, though it was a little distant for the camera.

Masked Shrike

I also had a bit of time to watch a Jack Snipe at close range on the Canal Scrape, had a Peregrine go up the Point and saw a newly found Richard's Pipit.  I also managed to see both Stoat (crossing the road near Patrington) and Weasel (crossing the road at The Warren) which was an unexpected bonus.

Jack Snipe


I spent 18th-28th September having a fantastic reunion of birding mates in the UK: nine of us spent 18 months organising this trip which included five nights on Fair Isle, with the rest of the time spent on Shetland.

This was only my second visit to Shetland (and my first to Fair Isle) having previously spent a little time working as a voluntary warden on the RSPB's reserve on Fetlar in August 1989, soon after finishing my GCSEs! After such a log time it was great to be back, and the birds did not let us down - between us we found a considerable number of scarce migrants and rarities including Olive-backed Pipit, Arctic Warbler, at least two Barred Warblers, numerous Yellow-browed Warblers, three Little Buntings, three Red-breasted Flycatchers, and single Red-backed Shrike.  In addition to our self-found birds we also saw three classic Shetland specialities - a Lanceolated Warbler crawling through a dry stone wall on Fair Isle, a pod of Orca circumnavigating Fair Isle whilst apparently hunting seals, and a Pechora Pipit on somebody's back lawn (!) in Baltasound, Unst.

Other birding highlights enjoyed by various group members included on Fair Isle: two Bluethroats, another Barred Warbler, another Arctic Warbler, Red-throated Pipit, and regular encounters with Jack Snipe, Lapland Buntings and Brambling. Whilst on mainland Shetland we also saw a Red-flanked Bluetail, a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, further Red-breasted Flycatcher, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, and a Wood Warbler.

Strong westerlies towards the end of our trip meant coming off Fair Isle a day early (allowing some of us to make it to the Unst Pechora Pipit) and made birding hard work - though we were sure that there were some "yanks" lurking as a result...the first of these (a Swainson's Thrush) was found about an hour after I departed on a flight to Glasgow!

It was a magical trip, and one that I hope to repeat in the not too distant future...

Red-flanked Bluetail, Sumburgh Head

Little Bunting, Lower Leogh, Fair Isle

Olive-backed Pipit, Quoy, Fair Isle

Red-throated Pipit, Setter, Fair Isle

Bluethroat, Pund, Fair Isle

Pechora Pipit, Baltasound, Unst

Orca, North Light, Fair Isle

Barred Warbler, Voe

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Veengarth

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Cunningsburgh

Yellow-browed Warbler, Cunningsburgh

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Shrike-tastic weekend

After finding yesterday's Tiger Shrike so close to home and with very little effort, I was inspired to give Suan Rot Fai a damn good kicking this morning.

Gloomy conditions at dawn with low cloud after heavy overnight rain meant that looking for warblers and flycatchers would have to wait and I headed to some more open areas to see what was happening around the lakes.  One of the first birds I heard calling was my first Brown Shrike of the autumn and as the morning progressed I picked up another five - birds are on the move!

Whilst checking the mimosa that makes up the "Rubythroat Bushes" I flushed a shrike, which I assumed would be another Brown, but when I got the binoculars on it I could see it had a grey cap and my thoughts immediately turned to a picture I'd seen on Facebook a couple days previously of a Burmese Shrike at Khon Kaen University. The bird flew around for a minute or so and it was obvious from the flight pattern that this was not a Brown Shrike, being much less direct or purposeful.  More time getting views of the bird perched confirmed that it was indeed a juvenile Burmese Shrike, and only my second patch tick of the year!

Burmese Shrike is resident in easternmost India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Vietnam and southern China, with some short-range  migration into Thailand and Cambodia outside the breeding season.

Burmese Shrike

Other migrants were a bit thin on the ground, with just one Arctic Warbler and two Eastern Crowned Warblers, a Blue-tailed Bee-eater heard overhead and a single Barn Swallow seen.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A tiger in paradise

One hour in the grounds of the Ministry of Public Relations this morning in bright, sunny conditions produced quality but not much quantity, with the only migrants seen being a juv Tiger Shrike and a male Asian Paradise Flycatcher (without tail streamers).

These are both regular but relatively scarce migrants in Bangkok - the Tiger Shrike was my fourth since starting to work a local patch in 2008, whilst I might run into a maximum of five Paradise Flycatchers in autumn.