Friday, 17 June 2011

The Farnes

Last weekend’s focus [9-12 June] was definitely on seabirds when I went with the Bedford RSPB Group on a four-day trip to Northumberland. The main purpose of the trip was to visit the Farne Islands, and that’s exactly what we did on our first full day there [Friday] - going to Staple Island in the morning, with seabird colonies covering the cliffs...

... and seabirds nesting just about wherever you looked.

 

Kittiwake

 

Guillemots
 
Eider Duck (female)
The afternoon was taken up with a visit to Inner Farne, where we had a close encounter with Arctic Terns...

Many of these Terns nest within inches of the footpath and then resort to dive-bombing and screaming at you as you make your way along it.


We also did a couple of early morning sea watches on Holy Island (aka Lindisfarne) where, apart from the birds, I was interested to see these upturned boats converted into sheds...

On Sunday morning, before starting the journey home, we were booked on the RSPB boat trip to Coquet Island, out of Amble, an island that holds the largest colony in Britain of endangered Roseate Terns – although even here they number only around 90 pairs. It was a treat to see them, but for me the birds of the trip, fortunately found on all the islands, were the wonderful little Puffins...


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Cuckoo and Phalaropes

If Sunday had gone according to plan the title of this post could very well have been ‘Orioles and Bluethroat’, since those were the birds we were hoping to see when we visited RSPB Lakenheath and WWT Welney that day [29 May]. However, things didn’t quite work out as planned and we didn’t see either of those two species - but still had a great day.
At Lakenheath in the morning a smart male Garganey, Bitterns flying over the reed beds, three Hobbies perched together in a tree, and several Cuckoos calling and flying around more than made up for the elusive Golden Orioles which we could hear but not see. Cuckoos too can be difficult to see and so we were pleased when one settled in a tree at the edge of one of the poplar plantations...

... allowing us to watch it for a while - being blown about in the wind...
video


It was off to Welney for the afternoon, and as we waited [in vain] for a glimpse of the Bluethroat which is holding a territory there again this year, a birder near to us heard that a Red-necked Phalarope was on the water outside the Lyle hide, just along the path from where we were standing. There was in fact a pair - beautiful birds, both in summer plumage. I’d hadn’t really appreciated how small and delicate these birds are, but it was strikingly apparent whenever they were close to the Mallards and Avocets sharing the water with them. Apart from avoiding occasional harassment from one of the Avocets, both birds fed just about non-stop...
video

Red-necked Phalaropes are one of the bird species where the roles of the sexes are reversed when it comes to breeding. The larger, more brightly coloured females pursue males and compete for territory and once they’ve laid their eggs, leave the males to incubate them and raise the young. Here they are again for comparison. Based on the above the female must be the bird closest to the camera [they were quite distant so click on the photo for a better look].