We had a couple of disappointments at the end of last week, both due to the weather. First we had to postpone our Farne Deeps Pelagic and then I was booked on a trip to the Dogger Bank, which also fell victim to the strong northerlies. Both trips have been rescheduled though so, fingers crossed, they will happen eventually. We’ve got a few places available for the Farne Deeps on September 3rd, although most of our original participants quickly arranged days off work when I gave them the new date, so call us on 01670 827465 to reserve your place on this groundbreaking trip.
With Friday morning clear in my diary I managed a spot of seawatching; that most esoteric form of birdwatching. Then we had a couple of nights in Whitby, followed by a visit to Chesterfield for a Christening, and then home again late last night. While we were away there was a missed call on my mobile; Alan Tilmouth wondering if we’d be interested in a trip across to the Longstone if Saturday’s Thrush Nightingale had remained there overnight. As it was it hadn’t, and we were away anyway. Then, last night came the news of a Booted/Sykes’s Warbler at Hadston Links. With a frantic two weeks ahead of us, I had to work hard to convince myself that I had the time to go and see the bird
Now these two species are a tricky pair to separate and, despite information put out by various bird information services earlier today, I know that the ID isn’t considered to be cut and dried. For what it’s worth, I’ll stick my neck out and say that, on balance, I’m leaning towards Booted Warbler. The real problem though is that in some images it looks very much like a Booted Warbler, in some it looks like Sykes’s. In real life it was just as perplexing, apparently morphing from one to the other. Is it a Booted Warbler, fluffing itself up against the cold (the opinion I expressed to another local blogger after I saw the bird this morning), or a Sykes’s Warbler that occasionally looks sleeker than expected?
Another remarkable warbler earned a local birder, and occasional Northern Experience Pelagic participant, a major honour this month. Dougie Holden, the finder of the Trow Quarry Eastern Crowned Warbler, won the Carl Zeiss Award, which is presented for the photograph or set of photographs considered to have been the most instructive during BBRC’s assessment of rarities over the previous year.
As if all these rare warblers weren’t enough to be going on with, I went into the kitchen this morning only to find Sarah staring intently through her binoculars. Wood Warbler is an extraordinary bird for a southeast Northumberland garden, but there it was. Neither of us had that down as the next addition to the garden list but, as with most of the really good birds on our list, it’s no surprise that Sarah found it
As I grow older I’m finding that, alongside the generalist birdwatching that we usually do with clients, my own birding interests are becoming increasingly specialised; seawatching (when I can find the time…) still excites me as much as the first time I sat on Flamborough Head, raptors have been an obsession since I was very young and, more recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about moult strategies and studying bird songs and calls. The Sound Approach books have all been incredibly inspirational and then, during the winter, I was on a survey trip for the Northeast Cetacean Project and Tim Sexton was mentioning how he’d added sound files to his blog posts. As we both use the same model of mp3 recorder, and the whole process sounded easy, I thought I’d give it a go. I’d got an external shotgun mic that was included when I last bought a camcorder, so I connected that up and started pointing it at anything that was singing. I added the relevant plugins to the blog…couldn’t make it work. Tim gave me some helpful advice…still couldn’t make it work. Finally, I tried another way of adding sound files and here’s the first (of many…)
This Blackbird was singing from the top of the Apple tree in our garden during a heavy shower in late April and, when he stopped singing and listened to the other Blackbirds (which can be heard faintly in the background), he tilted his head, depending on which other bird he was listening to. We even have a client who asked for a recording of a Blackbird for an arts project he’s involved in. Who can blame him, it really is a beautiful song.