Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Day's birding in Suffolk

A day's birding in Suffolk started with a visit to Iken, hoping the long staying Cattle Egret would make an appearance at first light. Unfortunately after an hours search of the usual paddocks and surrounding fields there was just a single Little Egret found.
From here we went in search of Dartford Warblers on the heath. Despite the blue skies and sun shining the fierce winds made conditions difficult and despite a lenghty search we headed back to the car having failed to locate any Dartford Warblers. About to drive away two birds appeared in gorse by the roadside, Two Dartford Warblers! These were soon joined by five more individuals, and they happily fed among the gorse while we watched from the comfort of the car. As we watched a Sparrowhawk appeared on the grass right by the road. Flushed by a passing car it flew alongside our car and disappeared into the gorse causing panic among the Dartford Warblers. Happily they soon resumed feeding among the gorse either side of the road.

At Minsmere  Entering the Wildlife Outlook (formerly Western Hide). We were told a pair of Garganey were sleeping behind a small island in front of the hide. Unfortunately they remained hidden for the next hour. and when a passing raptor flies overhead flushing the pair I miss them because I'm watching an Otter fishing in a pool close by and then following two House Martins as they fly across in front of the hide. The Garganey had flown over the ridge in the middle of the scrape, with no chance of seeing them from Western Hide, we headed round to North Hide and after some scanning with the scope I managed to locate the pair tucked in the reeds some distant away. 
Before heading for home we made a return trip to Iken hoping the Cattle Egret would be showing. Luckily as we passed Sandy Lane the bird is spotted along the edge of the bottom paddock with a small herd of cattle.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Little Bunting: Great Barford, Bedfordshire

With the weather forecast not looking good this morning we decided on a relatively short trip to Great Barford in Bedfordshire. The Little Bunting had first been reported on the 31st January, and pretty much every day since. Some reports had said that it was difficult to locate and even more difficult to photograph. But to be honest it was just a matter of waiting for the bird to arrive and drop onto the seed. Photographing the bird proved far more difficult with the constant rain fall and heavy clouds.
Light rain had been falling on route and was still falling as we left the car. As we crossed the road a single Sand Martin was spotted flying around the Arch Bridge opposite The Anchor public house. After checking my records it's my earliest record of Sand Martin, beating the previous one by Twenty one days.
Initially we headed down river, luckily we hadn't gone far before realising we needed to head up river. We followed the path along the edge of the River Great Ouse and eventually found the bridge mentioned in the reports. Some seed had been scattered at the edge of a ploughed field by local Beds birders and soon several birds were dropping down to feed on it. 
The rain had by now turned into a constant heavy drizzle and although plenty of birds were feeding on the seed there was no sign of the Little Bunting. A singing Chiffchaff from a nearby tree gave me another welcome year tick before the target bird was spotted perched at the top of a bordering tree. It dropped down onto the seed and with several Reed Bunting for company allowed a nice comparison between the two species. We watched it come and go several times over the next couple of hours before heading for the car.

Nice opportunity to compare the two species side by side.

Reed Bunting

Arched Bridge

The early fifteen century arched Bridge marks the start of the walk up river.

Feeding Area

The trees on the right are used by the Bunting before dropping down to feed on seed along the corner edge of this ploughed field.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Pallid Harrier: New Holkham, Norfolk

With rain forecast almost everywhere this morning, we decided to take our chances and head for Norfolk and hopefully bag dad a lifer in the form of the recently reported Pallid Harrier.
On route we stop off along the A1065 to watch a couple of hunting Barn Owls. One disappears across the road and heads for thicker cover, while the other bird perches on roadside signs before resuming it's search for prey. A third Barn owl is seen shortly before we reach our original destination of New Holkham. 
Arriving shortly after first light we join a small group of birders already present. The bird had already been seen, but had been lost to view. Scanning the surrounding fields Brian spots the Harrier quartering the bottom field allowing some superb views. We stayed for a couple of hours with the Harrier spending most of this time hunting between the surrounding fields and hedge lines, At one point a Red Kite arrived on the scene and began mobbing it! After the Red Kite had lost interest in the Pallid Harrier it resumed quartering the bottom field and is then joined by a Merlin.

Pallid Harrier (B Anderson)

After the bird had disappeared from view, we left and went in search of the Shore Larks at Holkham. Expecting a long walk out towards the beach, we got lucky when seven Shore Larks were found feeding among the dunes in the bay. As we headed back towards the boardwalk two Cranes appeared over the top of the Pine trees, adding another welcome year tick.

A very brief stop off at Brancaster Staithe adding Bar-tailed Godwit to the year list before we moved on to Choseley in search of Grey Partridge. We found plenty of Red-legged Partridge at several spots along the road towards Choseley drying barns, and finally located two Greys at the edge of one of the fields.

Before heading for home we made a stop at Cockley Cley for a Great Grey Shrike. We Parked up by the Firebreak 109 sign and took the main track hoping we had picked the right path. Luckily as we reached the open area Brian picked out the Shrike low in a bush. 

On the return trip to the car, we picked up a Lesser Redpoll among a flock of Goldfinch in a roadside tree, and while scanning the surrounding trees the Shrike appeared in a tree on the opposite side of the road.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Glossy Ibis: Ely, Cambridgeshire

A rare outing of late, started with a trip to Ely in Cambridgeshire hoping to connect with the over wintering Glossy Ibis. Scanning the flooded field from the metal gate failed to locate the Ibis among the Canada Geese and vegetation. Hoping to get a better view of the entire area, we re-located to the opposite side of the field via a public footpath and within minutes were rewarded when the Ibis suddenly emerged from thick cover and began to feed out in the open. With the exception of very brief and short flights it remained feeding throughout our visit and didn't seem bothered by passing trains in the slightest.

Santon Downham was twenty miles away and having parked up we headed off down river hoping for sightings of Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. But after a three hour search, all we managed were a couple of very brief Lesser-spot drumming in trees on the opposite bank of the river.
We did however get some nice views of a young Goshawk being mobbed by several crows as it flew across one of the clearings and headed off down river and into the distance.
Despite the lack of Lesser-spot views it was nice just  to be back out birding.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Pine Bunting: Little Murston, Kent

Another birthday, and what better way to spend it than out birding, even more enjoyable if you can add a lifer to your list.
We headed for Little Murston in Kent, arriving at first light we parked up close to Little Murston Farm and headed off along the muddy track towards the sea wall. We joined the small group of birders already present along Saxon Shore Way. The Pine Bunting had already been seen but it was very elusive and mobile. We spent the next three hours scanning all the favoured areas without any sign. By this time the small group had grown to almost seventy birders. Then a shout went up, someone had the bird in sight! It was sitting out at the top of a tree on the far edge of the field. It stayed in that tree long enough to obtain good scope views.

With a lifer in the bag we made a fifty mile detour to Crawley, hoping the Rose-coloured Starling would be on show. First reported on the 27/11/16, it had remained almost exclusively faithful to gardens along Beachy Road, Broadfield.
Almost immediately after parking up in Beachy Road the Starling was spotted perched up in an apple tree in a back garden close by. It remained for a while and then dropped down to feed in the garden, soon to reappear in the same tree or in the fir tree behind. 

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Dungeness, Scotney GP and surrounding areas

A Red-necked Grebe had been present on a small lake just outside the village of Camber from the 3rd January until the 11th, it had then disappeared until news came out that it had reappeared on the 20th. 
A trip to Dungeness today gave us the opportunity to check the lake out this morning, As we left the car the temperature was -6 and it was no surprise that most of the lake had frozen over. Just a small corner at the far end was still ice free and almost immediately the Grebe was found happily swimming and feeding along the edge of the reeds.
A short distance from here is Scotney GP, Several scans from different vantage points failed to locate the Black-necked Grebe, but I did managed to find a Redhead Smew moving along the far bank. The only geese present on Scotney were a flock of Barnacle, so we parked up and headed for the pits behind the farm buildings trying to locate the Graylag flock and hopefully the two Bean Geese. The Greylag flock was indeed present and after a short scan the two Bean Geese were also found along with several Brent and a single Pink-Footed Goose. While scanning the geese a bonus year tick came when the familiar sound of a Lapland Bunting flew overhead. It flew across the path calling several times and may have landed on the path to drink from the puddles if they had not been frozen solid.
Arc Pit had nine Great White Egrets in the roost as we drove past, but we failed to find any Black Redstarts around the power station complex.
At the reserve entrance a large flock of Tree Sparrows were present, but there was no sign of the Ring-necked Duck on Cook's Pool due to it being almost completely frozen over.

Before leaving for home we stopped off at Hythe and after checking a few spots eventually found a single Purple Sandpiper feeding among the rocks.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Iceland Gull. Thetford

This mornings birding trip began at Lynford Arboretum. The light wast just beginning to improve as we left the car park with the temperature not much more than 1-2 degrees.
We headed South along the edge of the arboretum over the bridge towards the paddocks. Several scans of the area later and no Hawfinch to be seen. I began scanning the surrounding pine trees running along the Western edge of the paddocks and finally managed to locate two Hawfinch. Having reached the Southern end of the paddocks we got lucky when two Crossbill were heard calling overhead. At the second bridge we put some seed down on the pillars and soon were rewarded with close views of Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and Coal Tit. On the walk back we found a sizable flock of Siskin and several Brambling feeding on the ground.

Holkham Hall

We left Lynford and headed for an industrial estate on Burrell Way only 12 miles from Lynford  A short walk from the car park to view the gulls roosting on the Plumb Center building and almost immediately the Iceland Gull pops into view. Several times the gulls got spooked and took to the air, but would land again close by or back on the same building.