Thursday, 14 November 2019

Little Bittern, Amwell Nature Reserve

Reports of a Little Bittern seen in flight at Amwell NR today, had us planning the trip if any more positive sightings were broadcast. Forty-five minutes later the news services reported the bird as having been seen again in flight from the viewpoint. That was all the encouragement we needed. 

Amwell Nature Reserve is only 15 miles from home and with no traffic delays, we were parked up along Amwell Lane within 30 minutes. As we approached the viewpoint our main concern was if the bird was still present or had it just been a fly-over, never to be seen again?  Although all the reports had stated "Still from the viewpoint" this was not the case, Birders returning along the canal path told us it had in fact flown over Great Hardmead lake and was currently perched in a tree beyond the lake.  After another half a mile walk along the towpath, we joined a small group of birders who had the bird in sight!

Great Hardmead lake as we arrived







It remained in the tree for several minutes and then flew low and disappeared from view. Unfortunately for the later arrivals, it would not be reported again. 


Great Hardmead lake as we were leaving

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Isabelline Wheatear, Cley Marshes NWT

An Isabelline Wheatear had been present in Norfolk since Sunday and with very limited opportunities for birding throughout the remainder of the week, we headed for Cley this morning. The weather forecast looked to be in our favour as regards to the bird staying put overnight and we were quietly optimistic as we traveled the 120 miles North East. We arrived around 7.30 and walked along the East bank towards Arnold's Marsh. As we searched for the Wheatear a small flock of Snow Bunting were seen busily feeding among the shingle. We decided to split up to cover more of the area and eventually, Brian managed to locate the Wheatear perched on a fence post within the fenced-off area of Arnold's Marsh. It spent some time feeding within this area before it flew to the shingle banks. 


Isabelline Wheatear






On the walk back to the car, we stopped to scan the pools West of East bank and found the Long-tailed Duck still present. It was constantly diving and as soon as it re-surfaced it would dive again. 

Arnold's Marsh


We needed to be back home by1pm, but we had just enough time to stop at Wells hoping to locate the Rough-legged Buzzard reported yesterday. We scanned the fields either side of the track, only managing a flock of Golden Plover. Continuing over the ridge we scanned the next two fields and managed to pick out a Peregrine sitting among the grass. We were about to leave when the Rough-legged suddenly appeared. It quartered the field and then drifted over the ridge and slowly began searching the far edge of the field. We eventually lost sight of it after ten minutes but had enjoyed some stunning scope views by that time.


Rough-legged Buzzard


A short trip, but a very rewarding one nonetheless.


Sunday, 10 November 2019

Eastern Yellow Wagtail: Walberswick, Suffolk

On Thursday the bird news services were reporting a possible/probable Eastern Yellow Wagtail along the beach at Walberswicks Corporation Marshes in Suffolk.  Subsequently, sound recordings were made and by Saturday the news services were reporting the bird as an Eastern Yellow Wagtail.


We set off around 11am and enjoyed a trouble-free journey up the A12, arriving at Dunwich Beach car park around 12.15pm. We left the car park and began the 2.5km walk along the beach, eventually joining a group of 25-30 birders and were told the bird had flown South, but not to worry as it had followed this pattern several times and had eventually returned. Thankfully this would prove to be correct, as after 30-40 minutes Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings began dropping back in along with a couple of Western Yellow Wagtails. There was still no sign of the Eastern Yellow Wagtail but when a small flock of Snow Bunting dropped onto the shingle the Eastern Yellow Wagtail suddenly emerged from within the long grass. It didn't seem to associate with its Western cousins at all while I was present. but it seemed to take an instant dislike to the Snow Buntings, several times we saw it harass one particular individual.


Eastern Yellow Wagtail


Its favoured area along the front of the grassy area

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Searching for Warblers at Spurn, East Yorkshire

Spurn in East Yorkshire was our destination this morning, we left home at 4.30am and arrived shortly after 8.30am, having encountered patches of heavy mist and fog on the way up. Upon arrival, the fog had cleared leaving clear blue skies. A Pallas's Warbler was to be our first target and shortly after parking the car the bird appeared in roadside trees bordering the Crown and Anchor car park. It flitted from tree to tree and showed extremely well on occasions. Having failed to see a Pallas's Warbler in Norfolk recently I was relieved to finally connect with this little gem of a bird.

Pallas's Warbler

We walked the canal path and managed to add a Lapland Bunting to the year list. Having heard it call overhead we then managed to locate it along the shoreline among a flock of yellowhammer and Reed Bunting. A single Twite was also seen among the foraging flock. A Bluethroat had been present for over a week but after several lengthy searches, we failed to locate it and had to settle for a very confiding Snow Bunting feeding only feet away from us among the Marram Grass. As we headed back towards the car a Woodcock suddenly appeared overhead giving superb close views.

Snow Bunting





News had filtered through of a Hume's Leaf Warbler being found along Peter Lane. It was only two miles from our location and immediately after parking up, we had the bird in the scope! It eventually took flight and headed further along the road and disappearing into the trees and was lost to view. As we returned to the car a Merlin appeared overhead, it was in pursuit of a Skylark. Thankfully for the Skylark, it moved off having made several failed attempts at catching it.

Another very rewarding days birding.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Seawatching at Cley Coastguards

This morning we headed for Cley, with the forecast for moderate to brisk North-northeast winds we were hoping there may be a chance of some decent passage movement. We arrived at Cley Beach car park to find around thirty other birders all had similar ideas. We joined their ranks and began scanning the sea. 




Gannets and kittiwakes were present in large numbers. The Gannets must have located a large shoal of fish as they were constantly diving into the same area of sea. Several Red-throated Divers were moving through and three were seen resting on the sea. Small numbers of Auks (mainly Guillemots with the occasional Razorbill ) were seen flying East and numerous groups of Common Scoters flew West. 



As the clouds darkened and the wind picked up the first Pomarine Skua appeared. This would prove to be the first of twenty-seven poms seen during our four-hour session. Also seen were at least four Arctic and seven Great Skuas. Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser, and three Velvet Scoters were also seen along with a Great Northern Diver. 



As we set off this morning we had hoped for some Little Auk sightings and two were spotted heading West towards us. They were close to the shoreline, but even at close range they still proved difficult to find among the crashing waves. Luckily as they moved out of the surf I managed to pick them up. 


Sunday, 20 October 2019

A productive days Birding in Kent and East Sussex

This morning we had our sights set on a couple of Kent targets. We headed South-East and stopped at Stodmarsh NNR. Upon entering Reedbed Hide there was plenty of Greylag Geese present, but the hoped-for Bean Geese were not among them. A Water Rail close to the hide entertained us and then geese began flying overhead, probably having roosted at nearby Grove Ferry. Several small groups of Greylags flew past and then the two Bean Geese were spotted. They didn't land on the reserve but carried on past us. We left the hide thinking that they may have landed on one of the fields along the entrance track, and sure enough, after a quick scan of the numerous Greylags, we located the Bean Geese among them.


Bean Goose with Greylags

Leaving Stodmarsh we headed for Dungeness, with our target here being a juvenile Sabine's Gull. The bird had already been reported earlier in the morning, so we were quite optimistic as we walked along the path bordering the power station. We met a local and were told it was showing well, but as we reached the gathered group outside the hide the bird was nowhere to be seen! Luckily Brian picked it up coming back in from the direction of the fishing boats and I was on it straight away. It made several flights and then settled on the water. 


Sabine's Gull



With both target birds seen, we decided to visit Cuckmere Haven in East Sussex in search of a Grey Phalarope. After receiving some directions from a local we parked up in Seven Sisters Country park and headed along the riverside path. After a walk of some three-quarters of a mile, we arrived at the flooded field it had been favouring. 


Grey Phalarope





This tiny little wader normally spends the majority of the year out at sea, only coming to land to breed. Breeding in places like Northern Siberia, Canada, and Greenland. Its migration route takes them past Britain but it's normally well out to sea. Heavy storms can sometimes drive the  birds off course and they can then get pushed inland allowing us superb close views.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

A Dipped Bobolink

News reports of a Bobolink being found at Theddlethorpe in Lincolnshire yesterday afternoon had us checking maps, directions and times involved. Unfortunately with the distance involved, we would have arrived on-site sometime after 6pm and therefore in darkness.

The forecast for yesterday evening was for clear skies so we knew before setting off this morning that there was a good chance the bird would have moved on, but we decided to make the trip anyway. We arrived shortly after first light and walked to the dunes to join a hundred or so other hopeful birders already searching for the bird. A Short-eared Owl flew up from within an enclosed area as we walked the dunes and Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings were flitting about in the long grass. We walked up and down the dunes, but there was no sign of the Bobolink. By late morning we conceded defeat and headed back to the car and heard a Yellow-browed Warbler calling in Willows close by.


Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes


We headed South towards home but made a detour to Rutland Water on route hoping to connect with a Lesser Scaup. The bird had been present since the 10th but had been quite mobile, visiting several of the water bodies on the reserve during its stay. During the morning we had news that it was on Lagoon 1, which is the Lagoon viewable from upstairs in the visitor centre. After several scans, Brian picked the bird out drifting along behind the long island at the back of the Lagoon, unfortunately before I could view it, it tucked itself under the bank and was not visible. I kept scanning hoping it would re-appear from behind the island and eventually after quite a wait it did! Relieved we headed for the car, stopping to view a Yellow-browed Warbler flitting about in trees right ouside the visitor centre.