Sunday, 10 June 2018

Bonaparte's Gull returns for 6th year!

On the 7th June, the Bonaparte's gull was reported back at Oare Marshes. Having first appeared at Oare on the 22nd May 2013, if as seems more likely than not it's the same individual it has returned this year for its 6th consecutive year.
This morning we made the trip to Oare and immediately connected with it. It was busy feeding on the mud just East of the slipway. We watched it for 20-30 minutes before it took flight and headed across the Swale towards the Isle of Sheppey.

The stats on the Bonapartes Gull at Oare with first and last dates reported for previous years.

22nd May - 15th August 2013
17th  July - 7th September 2014
20th  June - 23rd August 2015
08th  July - 5th September 2016
08th  July - 6th September 2017

With little activity on East Flood, we headed back up the road and found a Turtle Dove feeding on some waste ground and Brian located a Little owl perched in a tree close to the hide overlooking East Flood.

A short detour while on route to Elmley added a second-year tick and eventually some nice views of a Spotted Flycatcher.

Spotted Flycatcher

The drive along the entrance track at Elmley produced several sightings of Yellow Wagtails along with Skylark, Corn Buntings Lapwings, Redshank, Marsh Harrier and Hare.


Monday, 21 May 2018

A Hit and Dip day at Dungeness

We started the day at Rye Harbour hoping the Terek Sandpiper had stayed overnight. Unfortunately, after a two-hour search, there was no sign of the bird. The islands on Ternery Pool held impressive numbers of Med Gulls and Sandwich Terns. Two Common Sandpipers, six Ringed Plovers several calling Cuckoos and single Little Ringed Plover and Black-tailed Godwit were the best we could manage.

Dungeness was more rewarding with a smart Kentish Plover dropping onto a small shingle island on Burrowes Pit. We enjoyed some nice scope views before making room for the growing crowds. A Hoopoe had been present the previous day along Dengemarsh Road so that was our next destination. After negotiating the narrow roads, busier than normal today due to the fact that there was a triathlon taking place, we pulled up along Dengemarsh Road. Birders already on site had seen the bird and gave us a general area of where it had last been seen. After 20-30 minutes of scanning the fields, the Hoopoe suddenly flew up and was promptly harassed by the local Magpies. It circled back around and landed briefly in the sheep field before taking flight again.

A brief drive along the entrance track at Elmley on the way home gave a few photo opportunities. A Little Egret was busy trying to catch small fish. Which it did easily and frequently.

Elmley is normally a good place to see Yellow Wagtails, and one individual showed well on a gate post.

A Corn Bunting showed well on a roadside post.

There was also plenty of evidence of successful breeding seasons of lapwings and Redshanks and Coots, with plenty of youngsters seen.

Redshank chick

Coot chick

Monday, 14 May 2018

A morning visit to RSPB Lakenheath

We spent a very enjoyable morning at Lakenheath today. Starting with a quick look at the new photography hide, which looks out onto a small area with feeders and some positioned perches with mature trees bordering the back and one side.

New photography hide 

Cuckoos were calling throughout the visit and we enjoyed some nice flight views of two birds. Bitterns were heard "booming" regularly and we had flight views of three individuals from Fen Hide and Joist Fen and also found another Bittern sitting among the reeds from Fen Hide. A single Hobby was seen flying across the reeds and we managed good scope views when it landed in a tree West of the viewpoint. The reedbeds were alive with Reed and Sedge Warblers as well as Reed Bunting and Whitethroats. Several Bearded Tits were also heard "pinging". On the return walk, Brian picked out a drake Garganey on the flood for another year tick. 
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the morning was when the warden decided to use the toilets and found a live mole running around inside the cubicle!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Purple Heron and Dotterel in Norfolk

As we approached Norfolk this morning, we decided to switch our plans and head first for Cley hoping to connect with the Purple Heron. Parking up along Beach Road we walked up the steps onto the West Bank and joined a small group of birders already present. The late change of plans paid off immediately as the Purple Heron was seen in the ditch. It soon took to the air and landed in the middle of Cricket Marsh. The local Lapwings began to harass it and it quickly took flight again heading towards the far side of the field and landing among the reeds.

Purple Heron

We left Cley and headed West towards Docking. Parking up along Choseley Road we began scanning the fields for any signs of the previous days reported Dotterel. Two Grey Partridge, two Wheatear, two Oystercatcher and a single Golden Plover were found before the three Dotterel were found. It was only 8.30am and both targets had already been seen. 

Titchwell was only a short drive away and we decided to spend the rest of our time here. Red-created Pochard was added to the year list with two birds seen. The Freshmarsh held good numbers of Sandwich Terns and also two Little Gulls and at least three Common Sandpipers.

Common Sandpiper

A scan of the flooded fields on the Thornham side of the main path produced a single Spoonbill. Three Little Terns were seen from the beach for another year tick along with Knot, Sanderling and Turnstones and a Grey Seal was watched as it hauled itself onto the beach and promptly went to sleep.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Green Heron: Llan-mill Narberth, Pembrokeshire

Prior to 2010, most of my birding was confined to local patches and holidays. Subsequently, I had missed the previous two visiting Green Herons. (25/10-09/11 2008 Hythe Kent & 06/10-01/12 2010 Heligan, Cornwall). 
I have seen several Green Herons during holidays to the US, but the chance to see one in the UK, albeit 260 miles from home proved too tempting. We left at 4am and with minimal traffic on the roads at this hour we arrived in the village of Llan-mill in Pembrokeshire around 7.30am. A fifteen-minute walk followed before we reached the end of the track and the home of Simon Hart MP. We were met by another birder who directed us to the garden viewing area. There was a small stream running along the back of the garden and the pond was situated behind the stream. The Heron was seen immediately, perched on a small branch at the back of the pond. During our three hour visit, it became more active and began flying to different areas of the pond.

This was a very enjoyable twitch, with great scenery, very accommodating hosts and not a hint of anyone misbehaving while on site. The coffee was also very welcome.

After leaving Llan-mill, it was just a short drive to Blackpool Mill, this used to be a very welcome place to stop off and enjoy Cream teas. Now, unfortunately, it's closed and going to ruin. It is however still a reliable site for Dippers. After a longer search than normal two Dippers were seen. The longer search may have been due to a fisherman fishing close to the bridge.

There was still enough time to visit the Deer Park at Marloes. This is where you would come to catch the boat across to Skomer. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to do this but instead went in search of Chough. Normally you can hear the birds before you actually spot them, but today they remained silent. Eventually, we managed to see three birds. A scan from the headland of the Deer Park across to Skomer added good numbers of Puffin for another welcome year tick. Wheatears seemed to be everywhere here, with at least 20-25 birds seen. A Raven dropped in to drink from a puddle and a single Stonechat was also seen. The only other year tick came in the form of two House Martins that zipped low across the grass providing me with my 200th bird of the year.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

American Bittern: Carlton Marshes, Suffolk

Last Sunday we were searching for newly arrived migrants and dodging the rain showers in Kent when news broke of the continued presence of the American Bittern at Carlton Marshes. Unfortunately, we were further from the site then, than we would have been if we were at home. Today we had the opportunity to visit the site and give ourselves the chance of seeing this rare visitor from across the pond.

Arriving shortly after 7am we took the footpath opposite the main car park. As we approached the first stile and gate we heard the distinctive "reeling" of a Grasshopper Warbler. After a walk of maybe 3/4 mile, we found the birders already present strung out along the footpath trying to grab a decent vantage point. Scanning the surrounding area I managed to find a male Ring Ouzel perched at the top of a small Elder. During the next four hours, there was no sign of the target bird. Marsh harriers were very active collecting nest material and several birds were seen in the air at the same time. 

Two Cranes flew overhead and a Wheatear dropped in. Another year tick came in the form of a Whimbrel, that dropped onto the flooded field right in front of us. 

Then the American Bittern appeared low over the reeds, Approaching the edge of the reeds it dropped down right in front of us but disappeared into the reeds and was lost to view. All was quiet for another two hours and then a phone call from a birder further down the track saying he had the Bittern, saw the whole crowd move as one to join him. Directions were a bit sketchy but eventually, I  managed to get some nice views before it again disappeared into the reeds.
All that was left to do was to add a donation to the collection bucket and head back along the footpath towards the car park. Bagging another year tick when a Willow warbler began singing from the nearby trees.

American Bittern

A short stop off at Cavenham Heath before heading for home added another couple of year ticks At least three Stone Curlew were found and then two showy Woodlarks dropped in right by the roadside.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Ring Ouzel: Walthamstow Wetlands

After a 10.6 million pound investment by the London Wildlife trust, Waltham Forest Council, Thames Water, and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Walthamstow Reservoirs has been revamped and renamed.  known now as Walthamstow Wetlands it's reputed to be Europe's largest urban wetlands reserve.  The reserve is free to enter but if visiting by car there are varying car park tariffs dependant on how long you stay. 
It opened to the general public in October of last year and it doesn't seem to have had any detrimental effect on the quality of birds seen. Since the new year Little Bunting, Bluethroat, and Hoopoe have all been seen. 
Another quality bird was reported today, this time it's a Ring Ouzel. Present for the third day it had been showing well on the 11th then elusive on the 12th. With an early report this morning we decided to pay the site a visit. We headed for the old pump engine building (now visitor centre and cafe). The bird had been frequenting an area favoured by the Little Bunting between some concrete blocks and the start of East Warwick Reservoir. After a brief search, the Ring Ouzel flew in from behind us and landed on the short cropped grass to feed. It fed for a short time then flew to nearby trees and bushes either side of the footpath

A walk around Reservoirs 1-5 failed to locate any Yellow Wagtails but did produce double figures of White Wagtails along the causeway of reservoirs 4 & 5. Hirunndines were scarce, in fact so scarce we didn't see any! Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were vocal in several areas as were Sedge Warblers and the trees along the causeway of reservoirs 1, 2 and 3 produced several Brambling.

On the way home, we dropped in at KGV Reservoir and watched a single Swallow before leaving the car park. As we headed up the slope a male Wheatear appeared on the grass and then made use of the fence posts.

A scan from the Southern end of South basin added another year tick in the form of two Arctic Terns. While a scan from the sailing club hut added 5-6 more Arctic Terns three Common Terns and a single Little Gull.