Saturday, June 30, 2012

Holy Shwift!!

Ha, not 24 hours ago I wrote 'migration has pretty much ground to a halt......roll on august'. How very unnecessary! 
This morning Blakeney Point reminded us in spectacular fashion once again to never write it off for producing the rares. We were just watching a Whitethroat in the Plantation, the first migrant warbler for a week or so, when an Alpine Swift zoomed low over the dunes in front of us, went right over our heads and towards the mainland. It being the last day of June and therefore rubbish for birding I had left the camera in the lifeboat house, bugger! The bird was slowing down a little bit and having watched the movements of Common Swift over the last few days I figured that there was a chance it might swing around over the dunes again. I sprinted back to the house in a time that would probably qualify me for the olympics (if there was an event for 200 metres over sand, in flip flop,s with SLC's swinging around your neck), grabbed the camera, and just as I emerged from the door, heart pounding, to my great surprise the bird was streaking past again and I managed a few shaky shots before it disappeared over the harbour. This was only the 2nd record for The Point following one at The Hoods on 14th June 1962.

The only bird of note today was this Arctic Skua harassing Terns between The Point and the array of bird mincers.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Raptor Camp 2012 dates!

Birdlife Malta have announced the dates for this years Raptor Camp, details can be found here

Life on The Point is much the same as before, chicks are growing up doing well which is great to witness, but being the middle of summer, migration has pretty much ground to  halt except for a bit of wader passage, roll on August!

Arctic Tern chicks

Fledged Black-headed Gulls

Curlew (and 1 Whimbrel at the end( on their way through

Adult and juvenile Meadow Pipit

Pied Wagtail on our gas cylinder cage

Terns fishing off the beach one stormy evening

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Twitching: Pacific Golden Plover

This afternoon I went on my first long-distance twitch for a year so. I actually walked the entire distance from the Beach Car Park at Cley, all the way to the North Hide to go take a look at the Pacific Golden Plover that has been around the last few days. I wasn't planning on making the effort to walk from 'our end' of The Point, but as I had to take the recycling down to Cley on the quad, I thought it would be rude not to wander over to take a look. Fortunately the bird was much closer that it had been earlier in it's stay and gave great scope views. This is the first PGP i've seen in the UK, and the first i've ever seen in summer plumage, a really smart bird.
It was a bit too far off for conventional photography so I resorted to digiscoping, a technique that I appear to woefully inept at, practice needed!

From first impressions this bird looks more like an American Golden Plover I think, but closer inspection revels some barred white feathers at the rear of the flanks, and in the under-tail coverts. It also called a few times while I was there, which is obviously a help.

And yes, updating this is far more appealing that watching that shoddy excuse for a football match!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Yesterday morning I was out on the beach checking up on some of our Oystercatcher chicks in their various stages of development. As you can see, they are coming on well, and the bird in the top image has already found it's voice, and is well into the transformation from cute ball of fluff to horrible screeching noisy bastard, bless em.

Whilst standing on the shoreline, some of the local seals came over for a look too, coming really close. Being a photographer, 'really close' is never close enough of course, so I waded waist-deep in to the channel, and was rewarded with them coming too close to even focus on. They were just so curious, definitely a case of 'whos watching who', with the Grey Seal pubs (born last winter) coming the closest. A couple of big bulls came over snorting loudly, which was a bit intimidating at first, but they always kept their distance. I don't mind admitting that I was eyeing up my options for fleeing to the shore if they came in too near though, thems some serious monsters, and having watched them fighting before, I wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of a friendly nibble. After an hour in the water I had lost feeling in my toes, and called it a day. That water really isn't as warm as it looks, but I was happy with a nice selection of shots of these cracking beasties, and spending time up close and personal with them is always a pleasure.

And just to restore the birdy theme, here's a cheeky little Swallow, sat on one of the sheds that it's chicks are currently busy filling with mounds of poo.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Spring That Just Keeps Giving

I really had thought that last weeks Icterine Warbler would be our final good bird of the spring, and I was well into summer chilling mode, strolling around barefoot, coo-ing over chickies and spending the days soaking up the sun and some serious mountaineering literature. Blakeney Point had other ideas however, and on a day when the only migrant this morning was a Stonechat, and we looked set for a lazy suny day,  a stonking male Red-backed Shrike appeared in The Plantation suddenly, and proceeded to spend the afternoon decimating our bumblebee population. Aah, happy days, this is why I love The Point, it's full of birdy surprises.

And then it all went all went horribly wrong..........
Just as I was finishing patrolling the eastern edge of the dunes this evening, and about to turn back homewards with thoughts of imminent dinner occupying my mind, I got that dreaded phonecall: 'unstreaked acro, looking a bit pale'. A cold knot of fear formed in the pit of my stomach, I hate acrocephalus warblers, especially on The Point, where you are limited to flight views, and occasionally the briefest of distant perched views, but at this time of year especially, they all need serious grilling. A quick sprint down the beach to the suadea in question, and after a long, tense struggle, I came to the conclusion that this is a Reed Warbler. I have practically zero experience of spring Marsh Warblers, but the rump on this bird seems to have a hint of warmth to it (more apparent from the flight views), there doesn't appear to be any pale tips to primaries, bill doesn't seem particularly stout etc.etc. However, it is somewhat cold for what I would expect from a Reed Warbler, so if anybody has any comments we would be very happy to hear them, and i'm quite prepared to receive copious amounts of egg on my face!

Breeding birds are still going strong, the Ringed Plover chicks are doing very well for themselves, and still being hideously cute.

Yesterday was alright too, with this flyover young Spoonbill, 2 Hobbies zipping through together and a dark-phase Arctic Skua nicking fish from our Sandwich Terns offshore.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


It's crazy times for the breeding birds at the moment, plenty of birds on eggs still, but loads of chicks everywhere, some of which are starting to gain a level of independence, and thier hard-pushed parents desperately trying to keep up with them.

Arctic Tern carefully re-positioning its eggs

Young Black-headed Gulls are trying to learn to fly, and crashing into the dunes and sea as they mess it up first time around

 Female Mallard hurriedly leading her brood away to the cover of the saltmarsh

One of the two Ringed Plover chicks, running around the sand like fluffy ping-pong balls on stilts

And Oystercatchers being the noisy bastards they always have been. The pairs outside the house seem to have taken a liking to flying around outside our windows like this, making a right racket at 2 o'clock every morning, but its difficult to get angry at them when they look like this:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Awww, chickies!!!

The Point has been a rarity free zone the last few days, but this has been made up for by loads and loads of cute little chicks all over the place.

Ringed Plover. This nest is literally metres from our doorstep, and we've been keeping a close eye on it. We were very relieved when it hatched successfully yesterday, and I couldn't resist a quick look, as they are definitely the most sickeningly adorable of our resident birds.

Redshank chicks are brilliant little things, but always leave the nest after a few hours so you'll have to take my word for it and settle for a photo of the empty eggs.

Baby Oystercatchers have all the character of the their parents, but fortunately aren't as noisy.

Nature can be brutal sometimes. Although you can't see it in this picture, this Kestrel is tucking into an Oystercatcher chick.

This Marsh Harrier probably had similar intentions for the Avocets at Cley this afternoon.
It can be tough to watch sometimes, but unlike members of a certain filthy profession claiming to be 'custodians of the countryside', we accept this as nature and let it happen, and guess what, we still have heaps of waders alongside all our raptors. Just sayin'

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Spring is dead, long live the Spring: Icky!

Just as we were starting to settle into our summer hibernation, The Point pulls another goodie out of the bag, our first Icterine Warbler of the year, long overdue considering the numbers elsewhere on the East coast, particularly on the Mighty Farnes!
Typically it was being a right bugger to see, flushing from the suaeda all too quickly and only occasionally perching up. We soon realised that good views/photographs weren't going to be a possibility and left it be to see what else was about. Result: not a lot. 

How many Redshanks can you fit on a chimney?
5 apparently, the 6th just couldn't quite fit. 

Resident Oystercatchers giving a Short-eared Owl a hard time, as can be seen by the white splash on it's right wing. Good shooting lads!

While most of the country sat on their sofas watching the football, I was wading around in the surf in the hope of getting some interesting photies of things flying through the waves. I didn't quite get what I was after, but saw the potential for some really nice shots so will be trying this again some time soon.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Blast from the Past: Scilly 2005

With the horrific weather continuing, and making birding and photography hard work, I've been doing a bit more work on the blog. This time I've uploaded some photos from a fantastic summer on The Isles of Scilly in 2005, a year before this blog was up and running. I saw plenty of great birds that season, and it seemed a shame not to share the photos, so check out the link in the bar above for more stuff like this Arctic Warbler:

Friday, June 08, 2012


After spending most of the morning out enjoying the rain today, I finally started to tire of it, and so have been working on the blogs facelift. Glance up the page slightly and you should see two new pages under the title picture, making it much easier to find trip reports and photos from my trips abroad. Please do have a look at them if you haven't already, because to be quite honest, going through all the old hyperlinks was somewhat tedious, though looking at old photos did bring back some very happy memories.

Thursday, June 07, 2012


I spent most of the day down at the Cley end of the beach, talking to dog-walkers and other such miscreants. A nice interlude came with these young Spoonbill flying through the Harbour from Cley NWT. Unfortunately the Black-winged Stilt on the reserve didn't do similar, and I just couldn't bring myself to walk down the West Bank to twitch it.

Earlier on, offshore from The Point, these two Grey Seals were well entwined and looking most content, presumably mating, the first time I've seen this in 3 years working on Seal colonies!

Another nice moment was seeing a brood of Meadow Pipits fledged from a nest I've been monitoring for the last few weeks. It looks far too cute and innocent to survive in this big bad world ( I've found two Linnet nests failed at the chick stage this week, most sad) but they grow up fast, and I love the thought that doing a vis-mig watch on some remote headland in a future March, this could be one of the birds 'seeep'-ing overhead.