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?).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.