Monthly Archives: October 2008

England 15.-26.10. 2008

England 15th to 26th of October 2008

To England

On the 15th of October after a shorter day at work we started our way towards Tampere and Pirkkala airport at 1.45 p.m. The only stop was made in Lahti where we tried to find a Crested Lark for some time but never found it. After all we were too early in Tampere and we had to wait for our RyanAir flight for several hours. At 11.05 our flight took off and we landed to London Stansted at 11.55 p.m. local time.

16th of October: We slept on the floor of the airport like at least 100 other travellers. People were coming and going all the time so the doors were more open than closed so it was pretty cold. There was also a worker drilling the floor only 20 metres from us, but anyway we managed to sleep a couple of hours.

We woke up at 6 a.m. and claimed our train-tickets and went to check where the trains are leaving. At 7.20 a.m. our train left to Peterborough where we were at 8.50. After some breakfast we continued at 9.35 to Sleaford by a poor diesel-train. And after only 9 minutes we continued at 10.35 to Boston where we were at 10.57 a.m. From the trains we had seen about 30 bird-species, for example some Stock Doves and a Green Woodpecker.

Pauls colleague Tony picked us up from the train station and after some driving we were at Pauls apartment. Pauls RSBP office was nowadays on the neighbour building so soon we met Paul, his girl-friend Keeley and other colleagues Graham and John. We left the workers to do thei work and went to upstairs to have a nap.
After 3 hours we woke up and went to have a short walk to Frampton Marsh. The weather was very windy but we saw some birds like Little Egrets, Kestrels, Sparrowhawk, Long-tailed Tits, Blackcap and other common species. At 5 p.m. we were back at the apartment where the rest of the evening was spent by talking and eating. At 10 p.m. we went to sleep.

Frampton Marsh

On the 17th of October we woke up at 6.20 and soon we drove to Frampton Marsh cape with Paul. At 8 a.m. was one of the highest tides of the whole autumn, 8 metres, so all the waders and other birds were pushed by water close to the cape. Paul was with us about half an hour before he had to go to work but already then we had seen some hundreds of Brent Geese, a couple of flocks of Pink-footed Geese, 50 Little Egrets, 2 Sandwich Terns, a Shag, Rock Pipits and lots of waders, After Paul had left we were watching to the sea and shores for about 3 hours and we saw thousands of Black-tailed Godwits and Golden Plovers, lots of other waders and some better birds like a Peregrine Falcon, a Kestrel, an Arctic Skua and a Red-necked Grebe. At 12.30 p.m. we started to walk back to the apartment. The track was on the bushes between the fields and we saw some Red-legged Partridges and a couple of Stonechats.

About at 4 p.m. we were back at the apartment and we went to visit the office. In the evening we went to shopping and planned what we were about to do the next week. The weather forecast showed hard western winds so it was meaningless to go to Spurn as we had planned. Instead of Spurn we decided to go to the southernmost part of the main-England to Lizard Point. Our plan was to stay there and tent for a week and try to find some American vagrants and of course twitch all the rarities that are being found nearby. We had borrowed Grahams tent and Pauls bosses car so the plan sounded good! In the late evening while we were packing the car we heard one more flock of Pink-footed Geese migrating. We went to sleep very early.

To south tip

On the 18th of October we woke up at 4 a.m. and started our long way towards south. We drove for several hours before we arrived at Cornwall. The first stop we made in Hayle. We tried to find an American Wigeon but only better duck we found was a Garganey. Other good birds were some Mediterranean Gulls, Bar-tailed Godwits and Grey Wagtails.

We continued towards the western coast where we tried to twitch a Rosy Starling without luck. Then we drove to Sennen where we tried to twitch an atlantis Yellow-legged Gull but again only a young Lesser Black-backed Gull was looking good before it started to fly. We still continued to Lands End where we checked a couple of islands where the gull had been seen but only interesting birds were seen on the sea: Gannets, some Kittiwakes and a couple of Razorbills. The text-messages that Paul received were telling horrible truth – all the rarities had gone. There was absolutely nothing to twitch anymore, only some rarities in Scilly Islands but we had decided not to go there because of it is expensive.

We still drove close to Lizard Point where we had rent a tenting place. We put a huge tent that we had loaned from Graham and drove to the nearest village to a pub to eat. After all we went to sleep very early because of we had planned to start early next morning.

Checking the bushes and seawatching

On the 19th of October we woke up at 6.30 a.m. and soon were driving to the southernmost tip Lizard Point. The roads were very thin and curvy and surrounded by stone-walls. When we parked the car to the tip we almost immediately found 2 Choughs! This was the only breeding pair in England! When the sun started to rise we started to walk towards west towards Kynance Cove. We checked all the bushes and after 5 hours we were back in the parking place. Only birds we had found were Goldcrests, Dunnocks, Chaffinches, Long-tailed Tits, a couple of Chiffchaffs and so on. Anyway we still walked east to Church Cove where we finally found a better bird – a Yellow-browed Warbler! While we were photographing this bird also another one was heard calling.

We walked a long round back to our car and after all we had been walking for 7 hours and about 10 kilometres. Anyway we still decided to start an evening seawatch. The weather was really good and so was the seawatching: we saw more than a thousand Gannets, lots of Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Common Guillemots, some Puffins and Arctic Skuas, a Fulmar, a Pomarine Skua, a Great Skua, even 18 Balearic Shearwaters with one very good looking candidate for a Yelkouan and a Grey Phalarope! All this was seen in only 3 hours seawatching!

In the evening we drove to Helston to eat and after all we went to sleep before 10 p.m.

Rainy days

On the 20th of October we woke up at 6.30 a.m. again. And soon we drove to Lizard to do a morning seawatching. A young Long-tailed Skua was seen right away and later in less than 2 hours we saw 1000 Gannets, 10 Balearic Shearwaters, a Manx’s Shearwater, 5 Great and 3 Arctic Skuas and a Fulmar. Then it started to rain. Anyway we headed to Cadgwith to check small forests but soon the weather changed so bad that we gave up and drove to Helston to eat and get our clothes dry. Unfortunately the restaurant was so cold that we weren’t able to dry at all.

In the afternoon we were back in Lizard where we checked all the closest bushes and were seawatching for 30 minutes but only birds we saw were 2 Balearic Shearwaters and a Black Redstart. Later we drove to St Keverne to a pub which was also so cold that we couldn’t get try or even warm but the beer was good anyway. It was raining very hard for the first hours of the night but later the clouds moved away and it came really cold! A Tawny Owl started to call outside the tent.

and more rain

On the 21st of October we woke up in the same time again and were soon again in Lizard. We walked again to Kynance Cove and on the way we found a Yellow-browed Warbler and the first Dartford Warbler of the trip.

After some hours walking we continued by car to Mullion Cove where Paul saw a Firecrest while he was changing our car from a parking place to another. Other birds were just Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs and so on.

After a strong hail-rain we drove to the east to Keggnac Cove, where we saw even more Long-tailed Tits than anywhere else. From the coast we found also some Mediterranean Gulls and a Little Egret, Soon it started to rain again so heavily that it was worthless to continue checking the forest.

In the afternoon we went again to Church Cove where we met local birder Tony and a Yellow-browed Warbler again. It was funny to watch the warbler to go to feed always to the bottoms of the nests of Rooks. We also found a Lesser Whitethroat but nothing else interesting.

In the evening we drove to Hayle to eat again. On the way back the road was closed because of an traffic-accident so we had to find another way to our tenting place. We were driving by extremely small roads but luckily we saw a Tawny Owl and a Barn Owl!

Other places

On the 22nd of October we had had a really cold night again, but anyway we had slept well. We had decided to do something else than checking the bushes for a while so at 7 a.m. we started to drive towards north. We drove first to Stithian reservoir where we found some Little Grebes, Tufted Ducks, Snipes and a Wood Sandpiper and then on the second stop a Goldeneye, some Mediterranean Gulls and some other birds that were nice to digiscope from the hide.

Next we continued to Hayle where pretty much the same birds than on our previous visit. Now we found also 2 good looking wigeons but the first one was easily identified as a hybrid between Wigeon and Gadwall but the second bird looked very promising. After some time it finally rised its wings so we could see the axillaries too, but they looked a little bit too greyish for American Wigeon. It probably was a hybrid between American an Eurasian Wigeon. Pink-footed, Greylag and Canada Geese were easy to digiscope, also the first Gadwall of the trip was seen.

In the afternoon we continued to Lands End to try to find an American Golden Plover from the flocks of Golden Plovers but the birds were mostly just flying high on the sky. All the plovers we identified were just common ones. Finally we got a text-message that made us move – the atlantis Yellow-legged Gull was back. After some searching we found a field which was full of gulls and this 2nd calendar year bird was easily picked up.

We were studying the atlantis for some time, also a Wheatear was seen, before we went back to see if the plovers had landed – but they hadn’t. So we continued to check Drift reservoir which was almost empty and before the dawn to Penzance where we saw a flock of 16 Pale-bellied Brent Geese. We ate again in Helston and because of the showers of our camping site weren’t still working we went to sleep early. A Tawny Owl was calling on the background.

In the afternoon we continued to Lands End to try to find an American Golden Plover from the flocks of Golden Plovers but the birds were mostly just flying high on the sky. All the plovers we identified were just common ones. Finally we got a text-message that made us move – the atlantis Yellow-legged Gull was back. After some searching we found a field which was full of gulls and this 2nd calendar year bird was easily picked up.

We were studying the atlantis for some time, also a Wheatear was seen, before we went back to see if the plovers had landed – but they hadn’t. So we continued to check Drift reservoir which was almost empty and before the dawn to Penzance where we saw a flock of 16 Pale-bellied Brent Geese. We ate again in Helston and because of the showers of our camping site weren’t still working we went to sleep early. A Tawny Owl was calling on the background.

Hard trying but no luck

On the 23rd of October we woke up at 6.30 again and soon drove to Lizard Point. We were seawatching for 1.5 hours and saw 12 Fulmars, 3 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Manx’s Shearwaters. a Great Skua and an Arctic Skua. The biggest surprise was 7 Choughs – they had been breeding very successfully!

We continued to Church Cove where nothing was found, but in Poltesco we found a very good forest-area and again a Yellow-browed Warbler. In Mullion we decided to walk to the airfield nearby. A distant flock of Golden Plovers were found but nothing else. It was raining very hard again when we walked back to our car.
In the evening we still had a 1.5 hours seawatching in Lizard. The wind was stormy but 4 Sooty Shearwaters, 3 Balearic, a Manx’s and a Fulmar were seen. Then it started to rain too hard again so we went to Helston to a pub to eat.

On the way back we saw again a Tawny Owl. The rain still continued at night.

The last time to the bushes

On the 24th of October we went again to Lizard before the sun was rising. We checked all the closest bushes. There were now much more migrating birds than earlier: Meadow Pipits, Chaffinches, a Brambling, Lesser Redpolls, Siskins and some Swallows. A flock of Carrion Crows were about to leave to the sea but even the last one came back after 10 minutes. A couple of Peregrine Falcons were soaring over the cliffs and from the village we found 2 Black Redstarts.

But all the bushes were absolutely empty! Even though we walked until Kynance Cove we found only a couple of Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff. 7 Dartford Warblers and Stonechats were nice to watch anyway. Mullion Cove was as quiet, just a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler. In Church Cove we saw Tony and a Yellow-browed Warbler once again.

We were already a bit bored because of nothing really good wasn’t found by us or anybody else. There were lots of birders birding in Lands End too. When the weather forecast told that there would be a very heavy rain next night, we decided to go unpack our tent and pay our staying in the camping site. Because of the showers hadn’t been working we didn’t have to pay the whole price.

Soon we started to drive towards north. After an hour driving it finally happened – Paul go a text-message with Mega! There was a Little Blue Heron in Wales! Because of we didn’t have any exact plans so we decided to drive to Wales. We had only one hour light and hundreds of kilometres to drive but we decided to drive to the place where the bird had been seen in Kidwelly and sleep in a car.

About at midnight we were in Kidwelly where the bird had been seen on a Carmathen Bays small part Gwendraeth Bay. We went to our sleeping-bags and tried to get some sleep.

In Wales

The 25th of October. We slept very badly! There wasn’t enough space for us and for our luggage. Paul lost his nerves first and went to sleep outside. He was sleeping in a mud next to our car – at least it was soft. Another car full of twitchers came about 5 a.m. and when we finally woke up there were only 4 cars in a parking place. We met our old friend Richard Bonser that we had been guiding in Finland. It was funny situation; there should’ve been hundreds of people, so we had to find out where were the rest of twitchers. We had been already thinking that nothing is working that well in Britain than in Finland for twitchers: messages were bad, they weren’t telling the exact place, not the birder who had seen the rarity nor any other useful information.

Soon we found out that the rest of the twitchers were on the other side of the bay and we decided to walk there. After some walking we saw about 50 twitchers standing on the bottom of a bay where was no water at all – it was a low tide now. So we decided to stay on the coast where was possible to see at least some birds.
There were good numbers of birds on the bay, even plenty of Little Egrets but they were very far and mostly seen only briefly in flight. After an hour or so we had seen some 40 Little Egrets but not that young Little Blue Heron which is not so easy to identify from Little Egrets. There were already some 170 twitchers around the bay. But then it started to rain and the wind started to blow extremely hard! So we decided to go to check the other bays nearby.

Unfortunately the wind was very stormy so it was impossible to do any birding at all, sand was flying in the air and it really hurt to stand on the wind. So we went to Ferryside to have breakfast. In a restaurant we met Lee Gregory who we had met in Kuwait in spring.

At noon we went back to Gwendraeth Bay where we stayed until 6 p.m. We saw at least 500 twitchers during the day but only some tens of them stayed there the whole day. It seemed that the twitchers in Britain weren’t that serious than in Finland. They were chatting all the time and they didn’t seemed to be very disappointed even though the egret wasn’t found. We saw plenty of Little Egrets but unfortunately the day was so dark and the high tide was so late that most of the egrets went to roost instead of coming to the bottom of the bay. During the whole day we saw a little bit more than 50 Welch tics: the best ones were 2 Peregrines, a Merlin, a Hen Harrier, a Green Sandpiper, a Kingfisher and so on. But the Little Blue Heron was never found again.

In the evening we started our long was to Boston where we were a 11 p.m. After a shower we were ready to go to sleep.

No lifers

The 26th of October. Because of we had managed to do birding in Britain for more than 10 days without any WP-ticks, once we had woken up and eaten some breakfast we left toward King’s Lynn at 9 a.m. Our target species was a Golden Pheasant – a poorest bird to twitch in Britain. Keeley came with us too but even she couldn’t change our luck. It started to rain heavily just before we reached the triangle-shaped forest and only birds we found were Pheasants and Treecreepers. Also some deers and Grey Squirrels were seen.

We still drove to one of the most famous RSPB sites to Snettisham, where we saw a couple of Avocets, heard a Cetti’s Warbler and saw a hunting Barn Owl far behind the bay. But the most amazing thing was a number of visiting birders! On the visitors centre there was a good birdbook store but unfortunately we were already too poor to buy anything. Another problem was that our bag was already too full!

After all we continued towards Stansted where we were about at 3 p.m. We said goodbyes to Paul and Keeley and went to eat to a restaurant in the airport. At 5.50 p.m. our plane left towards Tampere.

We landed to Tampere at 10.30 p.m. and after a long drive we were back in Parikkala at 3 a.m. After a couple of hours sleep I had to go to work. The holiday was over.