Sunday, January 15, 2012

He's off

Wildfowl count - Dagshög to Torekov

Spent the morning walking the stretch of coast between Dagshög and Torekov. This stretch in January usually produces a few winter specialities but today it was quiet, although I did finally year-tick teal! The highlights being just a white-tailed eagle hunting over Hallands Väderö, four adult shags on Svarteskär, and a black guillemot near Torekov harbour. Not a sniff of a grey wagtail or a water pipit, and just one meadow pipit. Eleven waxwing flew into Torekov as I left.

I checked the rev and Norra Ängalag before going home for lunch but all was quiet here too although the latter site did have five meadow pipits and two rock pipits feeding on the seaweed.

Klarningen is full of water at the moment, as are the adjacent wetlands, shame it is freezing up for the winter. Looks like a decent-size complex now and there is much more across the motorway (right of shot and outside BK). It is going to pull birds in.

In the afternoon we checked out Eskilstorpsstrand, spent most of the time looking through the large number of gulls here off Stensåns mynning. No sign of any white-wingers though. The flat calm seas allowed a leisurely perusal of a flock of at least 195 scaup and the oystercatcher was still present. Last stop of the day was Klarningen where I finally added rough-legged buzzard to the year-list and we also watched the hen harrier (female) eating a mouse. The sub-zero temperatures last night have put a decent skim of ice on the water and only 38 mallard toughed it out on the main lake.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kattvik goes nova!

Today neatly demonstrated why I am such an inept twitcher. I had intended to go birding this morning but settled into the sofa with the kids and did some Tanzania revision instead. Neglecting my mobile it took me two whole hours to realise that Olof Jönsson had found an Iceland gull at Kattvik early in the morning. I dashed out and found a goodish crowd, just a few of whom were watching a splendid near-adult Iceland gull.

A hoped-for bird this winter after the big invasion of white-winged gulls in northern Europe. Iceland gull becomes my first rare gull in BK and a Swedish tick too.

What I did not realise was that the other gallery was watching a point-blank red phalarope feeding off the little beach just to the west of the harbour. I realised when I got home though thanks to phone calls from Mikael Olofsson and then the tension ratcheted up a notch with the arrival of a second Iceland gull at Kattvik. We all dashed out but we missed the second younger Iceland gull quite easily... The phalarope was behaving nicely though just offshore, nice to get under the belt so soon in the year.

The overall Swedish list hit 200 in record time this year, helped by an extraordinarily mild winter and some winter storms that made available a number of seabirds normally associated with autumn gales. Red phalarope was one of these birds and it was great to catch up with one after missing the bonanza on the 4th.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A good seawatch

Went down to Kattvik between 0900 and 1130 with Number 2, who behaved impeccably, playing in the car and eating my lunch (as usual). Met up here with Ulf Ståhle and we had a busy seawatch. Red-throated divers were streaming out of the bay first thing with the eventual total hitting 2021 the easy highlight of a pleasant, well-lit seawatch! We sadly missed the great northern diver that went through in the throng during the first half hour... Other highlights were red-necked grebe (1 west), slavonian grebe (7 west), fulmar (1 west and my only year-tick of the session), gannet (30 west), pomarine skua (1) and at least 75 kittiwakes, including up to 25 birds feeding right in front of us. Razorbills and guillemots were going past (perhaps 300 in total) but we could not pick out any other auks. The chiffchaff was still grubbing about in the trees here this morning.

After picking up Number 1 from school, we all headed for a short session at Klarningen before continuing on with our taxi duties. First bird was superb and big 2K female peregrine sitting on a fence post. Klarningen had a big flock of geese (120 Canada and 85 greylag) that did not tolerate our arrival. Mallard have built to 54 and the duck flock included ten tufted duck and four wigeon today. A female hen harrier quartered the grassland and a flock of 41 starling swept by. It was time to go.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Viral birding

Feeling a bit under the weather at the moment with a weird virus. The wind was strong and in the SW so I checked it out for the first two hours of the day. Yttre Kattvik was quite, with many birds passing a long way out in the gloom and rain. The highlights of an hour here were just three gannets and one red-necked grebe.

Spent half an hour at Ripagården too, stuff was passing much closer here (predictably I suppose) but just one kittiwake in the session soon sent me scuttling for home and some much-needed revision ahead of next week's trip to Tanzania.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quiet wildfowl count - Torekov to Hovs Hallar

Spent the best part of the day walking the coast between Torekov and Hovs Hallar doing the mid-January wildfowl count. It started well with a quick look at the rocks south of the harbour where two shags were resting, further offshore on Vinga was a nice white-tailed eagle.

The count proper though was rather quiet, low numbers of most species and no surprises. Highlights were few and far between but I did see two gannets and a red-necked grebe. Very few passerines encountered, with just five rock pipits and four meadow pipits of note.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

pom skua!

Kicked off this morning at Kattvik hoping for the long-staying pomarine skua - a 2K bird that turned up on cue after just 15 minutes and did a number of flybys during the 1.5 hour session. Also here a wintering chiffchaff - my first in Sweden, as well as four black-throated divers, a gannet, four kittiwakes and a good-sized flock of 75 waxwing. A quick look at Yttre Kattvik produced two more kittiwake but I left just before someone found a puffin...

In the afternoon we checked out the storm damage at Grytskären. This is perhaps the most low-lying stretch of coast in BK and the coastal pasture was strewn with sand and rocks. Looks good for shorelark! A single redshank flew amongst the islands offshore - a scarce winter bird lately. Also here a single slavonian grebe and my first grey heron of the year. Walking north onto Ranarpsstrand produced a flock of 40 meadow pipits but little else of note.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wet morning

A horrible wet dawn greeted me this morning and the weather got worse during my two-hour session. Kicked off at Klarningen where scoping across the river to Eskilstorpsdammar produced a good flock of feeding geese that included 18 barnacles, two white-fronted geese and yesterday's flock of 25 bean geese.

Next stop was Hemmeslövsstrand where an oystercatcher was tripping along the beach and 17 waxwing bombed past south. The last stop of a day was a quick look around Båstad harbour where the easy highlight was a kingfisher flushed from under the walkways. It took me 12 months to see one last year but predictably was much easier this year.

Friday, January 6, 2012

That's more like it

Despite a late start I managed a great day in the field today, catching up with a few winter specialities and bolstering the year-list. The late start meant that breakfast looking out into the garden inevitably produced some new birds for the year, most notably at least 1500 brambling that flew north out of Sinarpsdalen. At least 750 more brambling were noted as I went over the top of Sinarpsdalen as I drove down to Båstad.

First stop was a look at Eskilstorpsstrand. Serious damage to the dunes here and the beach has been re-profiled. Sea levels are still high and the beach was covered in foam. Not much here in a short watch, the best birds being a flock of 75 scaup just offshore and a black-throated diver north.

Klarningen was busier with 25 bean geese over on arrival and a total of 22 white-fronted geese also probably newly arrived. As Sweden freezes up to the north we should get a few geese through, it normally happens in November but it has been so mild this winter. Other notable birds here were mallard (22), tufted duck (6), hen harrier (2 ringtails) and 30+ starling.

Drove home over the top where a 5 minute stop at Lya ljunghed produced the hoped-for great grey shrike as well as a complete surprise in the shape of a west-bound merlin (probably a female).

In the afternoon we grilled sausages at Ripagården (meadow pipit and goldfinch) before heading to Torekov. The rev was completely submerged and rather quiet for birds, just 13 wigeon and a rock pipit noted. Nearby the harbour was providing a refuge for a single guillemot and viewing across the sound Vinga Skär produced singles of both peregrine and white-tailed eagle. Last stop of the day was at Påarps Mal where a water pipit performed well before dusk.

Already over 100 species have been logged in BK this year, I added a few today but it will be some time before my year-list hits the ton.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

First day

Both BK and us were knocked about by the storm yesterday. We were on a ferry in the North Sea enjoying the aftermath of the biggest winter storm for some time, meanwhile birders in BK were enjoying a seabird spectacular that it was shame to miss.

Got out late and somewhat groggy for a quick look at Båstad this morning, no sign of any leftovers here in very calm but wet conditions. Met up with Mikael and Håkan, who had seen a pomarine skua and chiffchaff at Kattvik earlier on. I got the year list to 29 before I headed home, highlights were perhaps 8 (or more) long-tailed ducks and two Slavonian grebes. Plenty of red-throated divers going past and you have to wonder if if something good might not come out of all this wild weather later in the year. There is a Ross' gull loose somewhere already...

In the afternoon we did a short walk around the Killeröd loop, damp snow was falling and all we recorded were some calling goldcrests. Driving out we had the first siskins of the year and that was the end of a rather less than inspiring first go at year-listing in 2012. The weather is set to improve tomorrow, so should see more.

Postcard from the UK

The dead sperm whale at Hunstanton drew large crowds over the holiday period and was one of the highlights of the trip.

Just back from two weeks in the UK, mostly visiting family but also some great birding moments thrown in.

Duty called on the 24th of December necessitating a trip to Norwich cathedral to hear my nephew sing in the choir. Just before kick-off we had excellent views of one of the pair of peregrines which now nest on a platform at the site. It flew repeatedly low overhead. Superb! I used to day-dream about seeing this species around the cathedral whilst trapped indoors at a nearby school.

News after Christmas of a returning adult lesser white-fronted goose with a small flock of bean geese in the Yare Valley quickened the pulse. A chance to add to my meagre UK list! Nipped over on the last day of the year and had excellent views of the goose after a long wait. Also here an excellent supporting cast including bittern (1), taiga bean goose (85), white-fronted goose (180), peregrine (2), buzzard (3+), black-tailed godwit (2), ruff (a few), Cetti's warbler (2), water pipit (1) and bearded tit (1). Buckenham looked great as usual and was full of birds - huge flocks of golden plover and good numbers of wigeon evident.

A vert short session on the afternoon of the first day of the year netted a Coue's arctic redpoll at Titchwell and a confiding water rail that went down better with the kids. Nearby we enjoyed excellent smelly views of the dead sperm whale at Hunstanton, with 15 snow buntings over whilst we gawped with a huge crowd. A barn owl on the way home was welcome.

My last day in the field was another afternoon session after the long-staying western sandpiper at Cley. Sadly we failed to find the bird on the reserve, amidst a blizzard of dubious claims by other birders. Finally at dusk came the news that the bird was at Arnold's Marsh... Too late for me to drag the team up there so I had to let this Norfolk tick go. The only consolation was getting pushed off the boardwalk and flushing a jack snipe which flew silently behind the gallery and dropped in again without being noticed by anyone else. Another barn owl on the way home, one of the birds I miss the most in Sweden.