Sunday, 23 November 2014

Purple Heron, Capel Gwyn, Anglesey - 23rd November 2014

This Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) had been present at Capel Gwyn on Anglesey since the 18th November, but it wasn't until the 23rd before I had the chance to see it.

It's not a truly rare bird in Britain (it even bred here in 2010), with the nearest established breeding populations as close as France and the Netherlands, but it's quite scarce. They can be quite skulking and I for one had never seen one in Britain before.

The bird hadn't been seen by the time I arrived at around 09:45, but before I could even start scanning for it myself, a lone birder on a footpath out in the scrub appeared to gesture that he'd found it. I was surprised there was someone out there, never mind the he'd found the bird without flushing it.

I was impressed that all the birders stayed on the road to view, rather than trampling closer. And although at first we struggled to pick it out from our vantage point on the bridge, the bird soon came out to show itself, although always partially obscured by some grass or twigs.

Purple Heron, Capel Gwyn, Anglesey - 23rd November 2014

It was a juvenile, looking browner than the adult purple-grey, although the purple tinge was clear in the sunshine. The brown cap in particular was a dark mauve-brown. There were plenty of Grey Herons around to compare the bird with too.

It caught and attempted to eat what looked like a large eel, but struggled and gave up. After this it hunkered down out of view and didn't show again (despite dog walkers passing very close) until after I had left. Well worth the trip - a nice bird in a nice setting (with the bonus of bumping into some birding friends while I was there).

The day before, Saturday 22nd, I took my six-year-old son to Rodley Nature Reserve, not far from where we live. I often take my children there; it's a great place for kids to explore.

It's is my Patchwork Challenge patch, but I don't get there anywhere near as often as I'd like - the opening hours don't help either (Sat/Sun/Wed only, 10am-4pm). As ever, we weren't disappointed: highlights were two Water Rail, Snipe, Tree Sparrow, Little Owl, and this showy Kingfisher, aka "The best bird ever" according to my son!

Kingfisher, Rodley Nature Reserve, West Yorkshire - 22nd November 2014

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Eastern Crowned Warbler, Brotton, Cleveland - Friday 31st October 2014

This Eastern Crowned Warbler (Phylloscopus coronatus), the 3rd only for Britain, showed really well at times in the small plantation by the Hunley Hotel in Brotton, Cleveland on the morning I was there (my 5th wedding anniversary: 31st October 2014).

Eastern Crowned Warbler, Brotton, Cleveland - 31st October 2014

The bird was very active in the tree tops. When feeding it didn't spend more than a few seconds in each tree before moving on; but every 15 minutes or so it would stop for a minute or two high up to preen. This allowed me to get the photos above and the video below.

There was also a Yellow-browed Warbler in the small wood, which I didn't see but I heard several times. There wasn't a ID problem either; each time a bird showed it was easy to ID it as an Eastern Crowned Warbler (in all the cases while I was there) and rule the Yellow-browed. The bill was large, straight, spiky and a nice yellow-orange colour. The head shape was more angular and less rounded than for YBW, and of course had the pale yellowish medial stripe. The supercilium was strong and long, and bordered with darker stripes (a bit like the Arctic Warbler I saw on Shetland the previous month).

The mantle was mostly a plain olive green, and the wings had a subtle pale bar, nothing like the bold, contrasting pale and dark bars on a YBW. The tail appeared longer than for YBW. The underparts were whiter with subtle yellow edge, and had wispy feathering. A lovely bird.

A great twitch, and as always nice to meet up with @stevejamesPCC and @greeny1955. Shame I had to rush off to work in the afternoon.