Thursday, 14 February 2019

Goshawks and Kumlien's Gull

The weather forecast this morning was looking perfect for some Goshawk action. On route, we dropped into Lackford lakes hoping to connect with the Kumlien's Gull. Unfortunately, our timing was off and most of the gulls had already left the roost to feed in the surrounding fields.

The Sailing Lake at Lackford lakes

We headed North East along the A134 and stopped at the BTO's Nunnery Lakes reserve. We walked through the white gate at the side of the offices along Nunnery Place and onto the reserve. A scan from the bridge overlooking the 2nd lake failed to locate the Jack Snipe we were hoping for, but scanning from the bank by the fisherman's car park we managed to find not one but two Jack Snipe!

Nunnery lakes

The island hosting the Jack Snipe

It was now mid-morning and time to search for Goshawks. We headed for Cockley Cley and parked up at a suitable spot. It didn't take long before the first Goshawk appeared above the distant tree line. Soon a second bird joined the first and we watched them displaying. The weather was perfect and we counted nine Buzzards in the sky at one time. We also had scope views of one of the Goshawks perched in a distant tree. Eventually, the Goshawks disappeared and we moved on in search of Willow Tits. We walked the track for nearly a mile, only finding one likely looking candidate in the tree tops. But as the location holds both Willow and Marsh Tits we could not be sure. As we returned along the track luck was with us when the distinctive call of a Willow Tit rang out from within the trees. 

At Santon Downham we again failed to find any Woodlark but watched another Goshawk above the trees along with a Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel.

Before heading for home we returned to Lackford lakes and our luck was in. Large numbers of gulls were already on the lake and more were returning every minute. A 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull was found and then two Caspian Gulls. The Kumlien's Gull had not been reported the previous evening but it had returned this evening and we enjoyed good scope views before leaving.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Ferruginous Duck, Lee Valley CP

While birding up in Lincolnshire yesterday news broke of a Ferruginous Duck found on my local patch Lee Valley! It was too late in the day to visit yesterday on our return so Brian went looking this morning. After an hour or so he managed to locate the duck. I didn't make the trip until 11.30am but luckily Brian still had the duck in sight. It favoured the tangled overhanging branches of one of the small islands for the majority of our visit but did emerge on occasions to give clearer views.

Fudge Duck

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Long-billed Dowitcher, Frampton Marsh

The long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher at Frampton Marsh was the main target today. On route, we dropped in at Deeping Lakes hoping to connect with the regular roost of Long-eared owls. Visibility had not been good on the way up and it had not improved as we pulled into the car park at Deeping. The island in front of the hide was shrouded in a heavy mist which made locating the owls among the tangled branches impossible. We decided to walk the circuit along the river and return when the mist had cleared. Several Goldeneye and Goosander were seen on the main lake and a female Bullfinch was a welcome addition to the year list. Thankfully on our return, the mist had cleared sufficiently for the island to be scanned and we managed to locate at least three Long-eared Owls.  

Island shrouded in Mist

The Mist had lifted on return 

Long-eared Owl roosting

Twenty-six miles further up the A16 was Frampton Marsh which was the next destination. We were met by friendly staff and after a quick chat I collected a map and headed off towards the old car park. Once again it was grey and heavy cloud overhead, but luck was with us because as we approached the car park LGRE and his group had the Long-billed Dowitcher in view. I had been expecting a lengthy scan of the area to locate the Dowitcher but it was feeding on the wet grassland relatively close to our location. Large numbers of Ruff were seen along with smaller numbers of Dunlin. Numbers of Pintail were very impressive, far exceeding my previous highest counts

Long-billed Dowitcher

The 360 Hide

It was my first visit to Deeping Lakes and Frampton Marsh and I was very impressed with both reserves. Unfortunately, the heavy mist at both locations prevented a full exploration of the sites but I'm sure there will be return trips to both.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Great Grey Shrike, Santon Warren

Santon Downham is the destination this morning, arriving around 8.30am we park in the car park just North of the railway crossing and head towards the underpass. At first, there is no sign of the Great Grey Shrike. But after walking a further 100 yards along the track the shrike is found sitting near the top of a Hawthorn. The weather begins the close in and soon the snow begins to fall. It gets heavier as we walk the river path towards the picnic site. A Kingfisher is seen along the river and among the leaf litter, a few Brambling are found feeding close to the railway lines.

A visit to Lakenheath on the way home added a Bittern to the year list as it flew across the reeds from Joist Fen and a Water Rail made a brief flight across the pool in front of the viewpoint. Marsh Harriers were seen hunting the large reedbeds and a large herd of Whooper Swans were seen in the surrounding fields from the river bank. 

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Cattle Egrets, Hertfordshire

A short trip this morning to Amwell Nature reserve, but we failed to connect with the Yellow-browed Warbler. Three birders were already present when we arrived but there had been no sign of the bird. During our search, there were feeding parties of Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits regularly coming down to the feeders but the Yellow-browed failed to show among them.
Much of Great Hardmead Lake was still frozen over, the wildfowl, therefore, was concentrated along the far edges. We found Goldeneye and Goosander among the commoner ducks and Brian located a female Red-crested Pochard. 

On the way home, we visited Penton Drive Open Space hoping the two Cattle Egrets were still present. Both were spotted before we reached the gate! Still happily feeding close to the play area.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Cliffe Pools revisited for Red-necked Grebe

Having tried and failed to locate the Red-necked Grebe at Cliffe Pools on the 8th January, in what was very challenging conditions we decided to pay another visit this morning.
Picking Brian up at 7.30am we arrived at Cliffe an hour later. However, with the gates to the car park still locked we tried an alternative route. Following the public footpath, we eventually arrived at the Southern end of Alpha pool. The weather conditions were much calmer today and the early morning rain on route had now disappeared. A sizable flock of pochard was hugging the Western edge of the pool and after several scans, through them, the Red-necked Grebe was located. Also found among this flock was a superb looking Black-necked Grebe. Another scan of the water produced a group of three Black-necked Grebes. On the return walk, I finally managed to add Sparrowhawk to the year list when Brian spotted one overhead.

With no news of the Bonaparte's Gull at Erith, we decided to pay another visit to New Hythe GPs for the Ring-necked Duck as Brian still needed it for a year tick. Today we parked just off New Hythe Lane and took the footpath through the Country Park. This proved to be a much shorter walk than parking at Leybourne CP, as we had done on the previous visit. Arriving at Abbeymeads Lake the Ring-necked Duck could not be found at the Southern end of the lake. Brian headed off towards the Northern end and soon located the duck among a group of Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Coots.

Ring-necked Duck among Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Coots

Just the two additions to the year list today, but it was another enjoyable morning's birding.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Holkham, Shore Larks and Snow Buntings

With the holiday crowds out in full force at Holkham on New Year's Day, we decided to avoid the area thinking there would be too much disturbance for the birds to settle.
This morning we again headed for Holkham and instead of the masses of New Year's Day, there were only four other cars parked up along Lady Anne's Drive when we arrived at 8am. After feeding the parking meter we headed off along the boardwalk and out onto the beach. 

Looking from the boardwalk towards Holkham Gap

A section of the beach East of Holkham Gap had been roped off and this is where our target birds had been feeding. As we neared the area the Shore Larks were spotted busily feeding amongst the salt marsh. A quick scan with the scope revealed twenty-seven birds. The other target bird here was Snow Bunting and they were quickly located at the far end of this enclosed area. At first, there was a small party of fifteen birds, later the flock would grow of fifty! 

Shore Lark

Snow Bunting

With an eye on the time, we headed for the car park but were distracted by movement within the Buckthorn. A Stonechat appeared close by, but sudden movement behind the Stonechat revealed a Dartford Warbler! Although not needed for the year it was, however, a nice addition to my Norfolk list. I scanned every goose in every field on the way back to the car park. In the fields East of Lady Anne's Drive there were thousands of Pink-footed Geese and a large flock of Brent Geese dropped in, but no amount of scanning could produce any White-fronted Geese.

At Cley, a Glaucous Gull had been feeding on a dead seal carcass for the previous two days and when news broke of its presence again today we decided to head for Cley. There was mixed news on arrival. The Glauc had been disturbed from the carcass and had flown to the far end of the beach near East Bank. A lengthy walk on shingle followed, but it proved rewarding when the Glauc was spotted resting on the sea. It began drifting back towards Cley Coastguards but suddenly flew onto the beach only a few metres from where we were stood.

Sheringham was less than ten miles along the coast, so we went in search of Purple Sandpipers. The incoming tide had already begun covering the favoured rocks but Brian found a single bird feeding among the rocks close to the promenade.

Purple Sandpiper

Still needing White-fronted Goose for a year tick, we headed back to Holkham and scanned the fields around Holkham Freshmarsh. Some likely candidates were seen through the bins, but the scope was needed to confirm that they were indeed White-fronted Geese.

As we were leaving for home news broke of a Rough-legged Buzzard present at Choseley. Another ten-mile detour and we were scanning the ploughed fields South of the Pig field. A male Marsh Harrier and Several Common Buzzards were seen including a very pale bird. Another Buzzard was picked out and this was the Rough-legged buzzard. We watched it in flight through the scope allowing for some superb views. It then landed on the grass verge at the top of the road before returning to the field and resting upon the hedge bordering the two fields.

A stunning bird and a fitting end to a great days birding.