Sun 6th March 2011

birds : It is difficult to imagine any early migrants arriving at the moment with the cold northeasterlies blowing across the island. We were very cold indeed this afternoon during our family stroll at L'Eree. A rare bird did turn up today with a Mute Swan at Havelet but this didn't really pump the blood any faster through my veins. The weeks highlight has to be the full breeding-plumaged Med Gull on the beach at Rousse on Friday afternoon - there cannot be a more beautiful gull than a full-plumaged adult Med (except if it was at Eccup, eh Dad?).

   adult breeding-plumaged Mediterranean Gull, Rousse, 4 Mar 2011

adult breeding-plumaged Mediterranean Gull, Rousse, 4 Mar 2011

Med Gull GHA 4Mar11 a.JPG

Sat 12th March 2011

birds : We seem to have finally turned the corner into Spring. There has been a notable change in the bird populations as birds have started to move north from France. The wagtails and pipits are more visible and are moving at height rather than sticking to the beaches, and the odd White Wagtail seems to be present along with more obvious Scandinavian Rock Pipits than before. Stonechats also have become more visible - I am sure we get a small early-spring passage of this species. I haven't seen any summer migrants yet, although Sand Martin and Wheatear have been seen on the island already. I did see a female Black Redstart at Pulias, no doubt moving through.

Apart from a couple of long-stayers, 2011 has been very quiet so far for rarities. So on Monday afternoon I popped down to Town to twitch the Mute Swan in Havelet Bay. OK, it's not exactly an exciting rarity, but a rarity nonetheless, and only the second I have seen in Guernsey.

 Mute Swan below Castle Cornet, 7 Mar 2011

Mute Swan below Castle Cornet, 7 Mar 2011

Mute Swan Havelet 7Mar11 a ps.jpg

Fri 18th March 2011

birds : The joy of seeing a Wheatear. After 4 long months of winter, when you are relying on the weather to bring in new birds, the first Wheatear shows that proper long-distance migration is under way. That vast numbers of birds are presently crossing deserts and seas, trying to find their way home. The first Wheatear injects an expectation that wasn't there before and gives you energy to get out into the field and see what's happening. On Wednesday my first Wheatear was by the car park by Port Grat/Pulias, and it was fabulous to see it.

  digibin' shot of my first   Wheatear  , Pulias

digibin' shot of my first Wheatear, Pulias

This is the only summer migrant that I have seen so far. I have not had any of the Sand Martins or LRPs, and I also dipped out on the Richard's Pipit at L'Eree. I hope that my luck is as good as it was last year - but I doubt it.

On Tuesday, driving home from work I passed a small road casualty by Pulias Pond, and I glimpsed that it was a crake or rail from the large feet sticking up, so I stopped and walked back up the road. I thought it was just going to be a Moorhen (but I did have thoughts of Allen's Gallinule or African Crake (!)), so I was pleased to see it was a Water Rail. Of course, not pleased that it was dead, but pleased to be able to study it up close.

  Water Rail  , deceased, Pulias

Water Rail, deceased, Pulias

Wed 23rd March 2011

birds : The flock of Sand Martins feeding this evening over the gardens opposite indicates the migrants are well and truly in, and it's time to put the birdingmobile into gear and step it up a notch. With the fabulously sunny weather that we are having this week, it may produce an early rarity from the south - quite fancy a Night Heron I reckon. During the last few days I have been popping out in the field more and the L'Eree area was lively this lunchtime with two Buzzards circling with the male Marsh Harrier, which spooked a Ruff from off the L'Eree scrape.

On Monday evening I saw the male Long-tailed Duck which is still hanging around, but it was again very elusive for the camera.

  Long-tailed Duck  , Pembroke Bay, 21 Mar 11 (or is it a Tufted Puffin?)

Long-tailed Duck, Pembroke Bay, 21 Mar 11 (or is it a Tufted Puffin?)

Yesterday on the way back from work, I stopped off to twitch a group of three Garganey that had appeared at the Vale Pond. They were quite beautiful in the low evening sun. I think that this is about the sixth time I have seen Garganey in Guernsey, but the first time I have seen a female here.

  three   Garganey  , Vale Pond, 22 Mar 11

three Garganey, Vale Pond, 22 Mar 11

Garganey Vale Pond 22Mar11 b.JPG

Tue 29th March 2011

birds : Well my prediction of a Night Heron wasn't too far off, as a Purple Heron was seen at Grande Mare at the weekend, and also a Hoopoe was on the island. I didn't go for either of them due to family commitments as Rosie was working - I will save my family-abandonments for much rarer birds!

I've not managed to find a great deal this week, although there was a small grebe right out in the middle of Vazon Bay all last week, which I eventually managed to ID as Black-necked Grebe - it was always so far away. The Chiffchaffs seem to have come in in force today and my first Willow Warbler was with them in the willows of Marais Nord this afternoon.

  Ringed Plover  , Vazon, 25 Mar 11

Ringed Plover, Vazon, 25 Mar 11

moths : On Saturday the weather was pleasant enough for me to dig the moth trap out of the shed. I scrubbed off all the fungus and mould that was covering it, and gave it a good wash. I even dug out a brand new bulb from the loft since I had used the previous one for at least 3 years. But Sunday morning I only had 6 species in the trap - I never do very well early on in the year, perhaps it is due to the habitat in the local area. 

Moth of the week though was the Oak Beauty which was on the window of Perelle Garage - only my second ever sighting.

  Twin-spotted Quaker  , garden, 26 Mar 11

Twin-spotted Quaker, garden, 26 Mar 11

  amputee   Western Conifer Seed Bug  , garden, 26 Mar 11 - a bit of a massive one!

amputee Western Conifer Seed Bug, garden, 26 Mar 11 - a bit of a massive one!

wcsb2.jpg

Mon 4th April 2011

birds :  A backward dive in the summer weather at the end of last week halted migration for a short while but a pleasant weekend has got it back on track. The only new species I have seen is Swallow but the reports from the UK have encouraged me to get out as much as humanly possible. More spectacular was the flock of 3 Buzzards that drifted North over the house on Sunday - I'd like to think they were migrating across the Channel but perhaps not. The Marsh Harriers today were showing so amazingly, with both birds at the Claire Mare so so close at lunchtime. Then late afternoon another male was showing at just as close range at a second site. Then at tea time, a bird drifted low over the house. If you get tired of seeing Marsh Harriers then you may as well stop looking at things altogether.

moths : The first migrant moth was sitting in the trap on Sunday morning amongst a very small selection - a rather nice Dark Sword-grass.

  Dark Sword-grass  , garden, 2 April 2011

Dark Sword-grass, garden, 2 April 2011

  Hoverfly   sp., garden, 3 April 2011

Hoverfly sp., garden, 3 April 2011

Thu 7th April 2011

birds : Came across my first 'decent' migrant of the spring this lunchtime along the lane at Fort Saumarez - a male Pied Flycatcher. Ok, its not a big rarity but it was showing really well flycatching over the road, and it is not a species I tend to see very often in black and white plumage. In fact, despite getting my record Guernsey year list in 2010, I did not see Pied Fly at all. It was a pity I had just 10 minutes before I had to get back to work or I could have got some terrific photos. Swallows and Sand Martins are pretty common now as Spring migration is nearing its peak.

Pied Flycatcher Fort Saum 7Apr11 a.JPG
  male   Pied Flycatcher  , Fort Saumarez, 7 April 2011    The very brown and faded wings and tail show that the bird was a first-year male. Also, the rump was very very pale and looked whitish in the bright sun which initially sparked some excitement, but it was just very faded feathers.

male Pied Flycatcher, Fort Saumarez, 7 April 2011

The very brown and faded wings and tail show that the bird was a first-year male. Also, the rump was very very pale and looked whitish in the bright sun which initially sparked some excitement, but it was just very faded feathers.

Sun 10th April 2011

birds : A few photos of two Black-winged Stilts at the Claire Mare today. They turned up mid-morning but as Rosie was working last night and I was at home with the kids, I didn't manage to get down there until 7 in the evening. Of course, if I hadn't already seen stilts in Guernsey, I would have bundled everyone in the car and whizzed on down anyway. It was only 10 months ago that there were three BWStilts on exactly the same pond (see here) but the species is so amazing, I would go and see them every time.

  Black-winged Stilts  , La Claire Mare, 10 April 2011

Black-winged Stilts, La Claire Mare, 10 April 2011

Black-winged Stilt CM 10Apr11 e.JPG
Black-winged Stilt CM 10Apr11 c.JPG

I thought that they may have been a pair searching for a site to breed, but as they were both brown-backed birds, neither was an adult male. Such is the nature of birding in Guernsey that I was able to watch these birds all by myself - such a bird in the UK would have birders watching it more or less constantly on the first day at least. I did struggle for great photos as the evening sun was getting low and the birds were constantly moving as they fed.

Black-winged Stilt CM 10Apr11 h.JPG
  Shoveler  , La Claire Mare, 10 Apr 2011

Shoveler, La Claire Mare, 10 Apr 2011

Fri 15th April 2011

birds : Despite it being the now the Easter holidays, I actually get out in the field less often than when I am at work. During work days, I can - if I feel like it - do short bursts of birding before work, in the lunch hour and after work, but during holidays I am mostly busy with the kids, especially when Rosie is working. Wednesday looked very promising for migrants with the sunny weather breaking, but I took Merlin for an hours walk up Pleinmont and saw just one migrant - a White Wagtail. Today looked also pretty good with a cloudy start to the day and a southerly breeze, so we took the kids for a walk round Lihou. It did look promising, with numerous Willow Warblers in the garden, and lots of White Wagtails and Meadow Pipits in the fields and on the beaches. It was very nice, but nothing uncommmon unfortunately.

  Lesser Black-backed Gull  , Lihou, 15 April 2011

Lesser Black-backed Gull, Lihou, 15 April 2011

I managed half an hour out this afternoon at Marais Nord and I soon heard that the Reed Warblers had arrived. I was listening out for a Wood Warbler that had been singing there but I couldn't hear it. But I did listen to a great "Northern Nightingale" singing above my head (clip below).

When I got back to the car, I heard an odd call coming from the edge of the reedbed.

It wasn't clear what it was until it suddenly burst into song and revealed that it was another Reed Warbler sounding a bit funny.

moths : With the aforementioned southerly breeze, I thought it would be an idea to get the trap out and I caught a migrant Dark Sword-grass. In the rest of the pitiful selection of moths was a Powdered Quaker - only my third record.

  Powdered Quaker   (left) with   Common Quaker   - not an identification problem like this but you can get large, pale Common Quakers that look pretty similar to Powdered but generally lack the black speckling.

Powdered Quaker (left) with Common Quaker - not an identification problem like this but you can get large, pale Common Quakers that look pretty similar to Powdered but generally lack the black speckling.

A little bit of microscope work last week revealed something more exciting - well perhaps that's not the word to use - with what appears to be the first confirmed record of Tinea dubiella for Guernsey, which is a type of clothes moth.

  Tinea dubiella   - new for Guernsey

Tinea dubiella - new for Guernsey

It is no doubt not that uncommon here but is more or less identical tothe more common clothes moth, Tinea pellionella. This group of moths are becoming more and more rare with the modern obsession for sanitisation and the increasing use of man-made fibres. There seems to be up to three species living in my shed however!

Sat 16th April 2011

birds : Mid-morning I scuttled off for a quick twitch down to Rocquaine to see a Woodchat Shrike that turned up yesterday evening. Not a surprise that one turned up since there seems to be about 5 or 6 on Scilly and quite a few others in the SW and Ireland. When I arrived by the "Fish Factory" though there were no birders around and no sign of the bird. It took 20 minutes or so of searching before I flushed it from a hedge behind the industrial complex - no way I'd have seen it from the road so a good job the field wasn't fenced off. It showed well for a few minutes before flying across the field to a further-away spot. Shrikes always seem to look smaller in flight than they do perched up. This was the first adult bird I had seen in 'Britain' - my other three records all being of juveniles in autumn.

  female   Woodchat Shrike  , Rocquaine, 16th April 2011    If you look closely, you can see on its lower cheek that it has a gorged tick attached, and there seemed to be a couple more on the other side. This may mean that the bird could be sick or very weak, and so it may stay for quite a while if it is struggling.

female Woodchat Shrike, Rocquaine, 16th April 2011

If you look closely, you can see on its lower cheek that it has a gorged tick attached, and there seemed to be a couple more on the other side. This may mean that the bird could be sick or very weak, and so it may stay for quite a while if it is struggling.

Woodchat Shrike Rocquaine 16Apr11 b ps.JPG
Woodchat Shrike Rocquaine 16Apr11 h ps.JPG

Tue 19th April 2011

birds : I had two 'firsts' today. Blue-headed Wagtails are not massively rare here in the spring - I am sure that most active birders see one or two every April/May. However, in all these years I have never seen one in Guernsey - I have managed to avoid them for some reason. Today though, I took the kids for a wee wander round Pleinmont (where I had my first singing Whitethroats of the year) and there was a flock of Meadow Pipits in the Societe fields, which had a few Yellow Wagtails with them. And two of these wagtails were 'flava' - a female and a splendid male. It seemed quite pale-headed and pale-'eared', and with a broad white super, but it wasn't pale enough to be one of these 'Channel' Wagtails. I think (?) that, although named after the English Channel, these are more associated with the Channel further East.

The other first was a new bird for the house list. It was about 10 pm and from inside the house I heard a very loud wader call, and going outside it called again really loud, low over the house - an Oystercatcher. Although common here, they are very coastal and I had never had one fly over the house before.

moths : The full moon and clear, chilly nights have not encouraged a lot of moths to be trapped during the last week.

  Brimstone Moth  , garden, 18 April 2011

Brimstone Moth, garden, 18 April 2011