Saturday 23 September 2017

UK Birding 2017 #1

Sept 17 2007 Goldcliff Lagoons Newport Wetlands Gwent Wales.

After a trans-Atlantic flight I really needed a full days birding to help shake off the jet lag. Prior to my departure I had arranged to meet Cardiff birder Paul Bowden through the BirdingPal website. Since joining a few years ago I have hosted a number of fellow birdpals on their visits to the Lower Mainland and now it was my chance to sit back be shown a few sites with a local expert.
Paul and I had corresponded before I left Vancouver providing him a print-out of my meagre UK life list (134) and unbeknown to me Paul had figured out a plan to find me some lifers. He was even kind enough to pick me up from the village store which is close to the family home. More of why I am in England/Wales later. Soon we were barreling down the motorway to the Newport Wetlands and Goldcliff Lagoons, a well known birding hotspot.
Barely a scrape in the ground, Goldcliff's proximity to the Severn Estuary makes it a magnet for migrating shorebirds while the surrounding farmland attracts a myriad of species including various species of ducks, Meadow and Tree Pipits and Northern Lapwings. The hedgerows harbour migrating warblers like the Chiffchaff and Eurasian Goldfinch. The area is also a staging area for many species preparing to fly across the Bristol Channel, the English Channel and on to Europe. Some migrating as far as North and Central Africa.

In no time at all we had Common Redshank and Greenshank, both lifers as well as Northern Lapwing and a flock of Ruff, It was the first opportunity to use my new Hummingbird Scope. The small size is perfect for travel as it fits in a photo vest pocket or small camera bag, with it I was able to view a another lifer, a Little Stint which otherwise would have been out of range with bins.

(Common) Redshank.

Meadow Pipit.
Heading toward the blinds we stopped to watch some warblers gleaning insects from the bushes. A Blackcap was the year bird, most were Chiffchaffs with the occasional bird possibly a Willow Warbler although without hearing their song they are hard or next to impossible to differentiate.

(Eurasian) Curlew Numenius arquata.

Little Grebe.

These ruff were part of a flock of five. The males are much larger than the females.

Cardiff Bay

Our second stop was Cardiff Bay. Sluice gates allow seafaring vessels in and out of the bay allowing salt water to mix with the brackish bay water. Inside the bay a good number of Tufted Ducks preened alongside several hundred Black-headed Gulls. A Gray Heron and half a dozen Great Crested Grebes filled out the roster.
Grey Wagtail
Walking along the seawall both Gray and Pied Wagtails were hawking insects while dodging the lapping waves.
Pied/White Wagtail.

Black Rock Nr Chepstow Gwent Wales.

Black Rock /Portskewett

 Black Rock is also a migrant trap as birds funnel along the banks and across the mudflats. In winter Short-eared Owls hunt along the fallow pastureland. On my visit the bushes and shrubs held plenty of chiffchaffs and the odd Goldcrest. The shoreline had a flock of (Eurasian) Curlew probing the mud. A small flock of Redshank also landed within view. I talked to some locals who were quite amazed by the birds in their midst.


Chiffchaff I think?


Further adventures to follow when time allows.

John Gordon
Langley Cloverdale
BC Canada

Saturday 2 September 2017

Boundary Bay Birds # 250

August 30 2017 Boundary Bay Regional Park 104-88 St.

Delta, British Columbia

Sunny 84°F/28°C

Black-bellied Plover can be difficult to approach and are easily flushed.

I seemed the only birder on the bay, at least I couldn't see anyone else. The tides weren't good but that meant less people birding. Anyway, the most sensible would have stayed home with a cold beer but not me. The breeze off Boundary Bay was a welcome respite. There wasn't a bird in sight at 104 so I made my way to 96 where most of the migrating shorebirds have been reported. As I approached 96 I spotted the dreaded by-law officer ticketing a car. By the time I got there the birders/occupants had gone. Best park at 104 or 72. A ticket can cost $160

My goal was to find the three types of godwits had been reported for the past three weeks as well as a number of other species including Black-bellied Plover and various sandpipers, perhaps even get really lucky and find a Red Knot or Buff-breasted Sandpiper. All good birds to add to a year list.


Around 6pm the sun began to loose some of its harshness and in front of me were a thousand or more ducks, a good selection of terns, gulls and sandpipers just waiting to test my identification skills or lack thereof. Sanderlings no problem, Western Sandpipers no problem but what about the dowitchers, were they long or short billed? The terns were Caspian, easily identified by their size and raucous calls. As it turned out I bumped into two young birders Logan and Liron who were able to ID the dowitchers for me, the nicest and most knowledgeable youngsters you'll ever want to meet.

Finally after an hour I found the first of the two rarer BC Godwits, the Hudsonian. The Marbled was nearby but in bad light for a decent photograph.
Juvenile Hudsonian Godwit.

Finally I caught up with one of the three godwits I had been adding to my year list. This is my 249 BC species for 2017.

Western Sandpiper

Sweet Light

 Moments before the sunset I found this small flock of Short-billed Dowitchers. It was a great way to end the day.

Short-billed Dowitcher

  All images taken handheld with the Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500 5.6 zoom

Sept 2/17
As I write this I have just returned from Boundary Bay where I had a scope views of the Bar-tailed Godwit, my two hundred and fiftieth BC bird of the year. No photos but I had a fine time chatting with birder friends who I hadn't seen for a long time. 

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada