Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Looking back on my 2013 birding year


The new year started with a trip to Norfolk. As the light broke through the darkness the first bird of 2013 was again a Barn Owl Sitting on a fence post by the side of the road as we drove past. It could quite easily have been the same bird seen on the first day last year.
Buckenham Marshes produced flocks of Bean and White-fronted Geese, but the real highlight here was watching the massive corvid flocks going to roost.
Another visit to the Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire produced not one but two Buff-bellied Pipits along with Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe.
The local patch highlight was watching a Bittern hunting, eventually catching and eating a large fish right in front of me.
Another highlight was watching a small flock of Waxwings within ten minutes of home. 
The month ending with a trip to Priory Country Park in Bedfordshire on my birthday to bag a Ferruginous Duck, an added bonus was the presence of a Black-necked Grebe at the same site.


The month started with a Great Grey Shrike at Therfield Heath in Hertfordshire, followed by a day in Norfolk resulting in good views of Rough-legged Buzzard and two male Golden pheasants.
Stodmarsh in Kent was the site visited for a showy Penduline Tit, and the Slavonian Grebe that turned up inland on a small pool at Littlebrook was unexpected but very much enjoyed.
The Black-bellied Dipper at Thetford was a real highlight, made even more memorable by the presence of a family of Otters.
My first lifers of 2013 were added this month with four in one day. A trip to Ham Wall in Somerset bagged the Pied-billed Grebe followed by an American Wigeon, Lesser Yellowlegs and Cirl Bunting all in Devon.


March proved to be a quiet month. A trip to Bramfield Church in Hertfordshire produced good views of several Hawfinches.
An early morning visit to Dunwich Heath added Dartford Warblers and close up views of Red Deers, while at Minsmere on the same day a stunning male Garganey stole the show.
A trip to Rye Harbour this month eventually added a Kentish plover to the year list  after several hours of searching. As did a jack Snipe found among the reeds at a small nature reserve within a hotel complex at Tewin in Hertfordshire.


A first visit to Samphire Hoe in Kent gave good if only brief views of a female White-spotted Bluethroat. A Green-winged Teal at Crossness was another highlight of the month, walking past the sewage works on route proved less enjoyable.
Dungeness in Kent didn't disappoint again this year and it was alive with Firecrests on my visit on the 14th. After helping one of the ringers trap a Firecrest in the nets, I was rewarded with close up views of the bird in the hand.
I added a new bird to my local patch list when a Short-eared Owl was flushed by dog walkers.
Nearing the end of the month I took a trip to Grove Ferry where I enjoyed great views of Turtle Doves and to hear them calling was a real highlight.
Chigborough Lakes was my last trip of the month adding a female Ring-necked Duck to my year list.


May is normally a month that delivers and it didn't disappoint again this year. Having somehow missed the Bonapartes Gull in Eastbourne, I managed to catch up with the bird at Elmley Marshes in Kent to get the month of to a good start.
Lakenheath added a very smart looking male Red-footed Falcon to my year list.
The now annual weekend trip to Wales was again very enjoyable, Choughs, Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Wood Warblers, Puffin's and after several searches a Glossy Ibis were all added.
A quick diversion from a planned trip to Reculver on the 19th proved to be one of the highlights of the year when a Dusky Thrush! was reported from Margate Cemetery. After spending several hours here I still had time to pay a visit to Reculver and bag another lifer in the form of a very showy female Montagu's Harrier.
I made my first trip to Scotland last year and was determined to visit again this year. The long weekend trip was fantastic. Apart from the stunning scenery we even managed to get sunshine on every day. Walking up the Cairngorms with snow and ice under foot in t-shirts and then adding Ptarmigan to my life list was a real joy. Abernethy Forest proved to be even more rewarding with breeding Ospreys and Crested Tits. But I had to wait until the final morning of the trip to bag the bird I had made no secret of wanting to see. Having searched for it on each and every day of the trip I finally got to see a male Capercaillie. An absolutely stunning male was spotted among the heather and then watched for over three hours, it would have been longer if there wasn't a flight to catch.


What is normally regarded as a quite month, was anything but for me.
A Savi's Warbler at Lakenheath started the month off. Walking along the path I had the opportunity to compare a "reeling" Grasshopper Warbler to a Savi's Warbler at the same time.
I added another new bird to my patch list when I spotted a Marsh harrier hunting over the reedbed at first light. A real pleasure standing there in silence just watching it hunting across the reeds.
Another highlight was an early morning visit to Minsmere. While walking out along the footpath heading towards East Hide an Otter came running up the bank across the footpath in front of us. We would see it again shortly after we entered East Hide when it swam straight across in front of us and started hunting along the edge of the reeds.
Mid way through the month and a trip to Faversham in Kent for my first Black Kite, then news came of a "Mega" down in Suffolk. A Pacific Swift was found at Trimley Marshes on the 15th. After arriving early the next day to find the bird still present it proved very frustrating when I couldn't get on the bird while viewing the area from the hide. After moving outside and climbing the grass bank I finally managed to get on the bird. Eventually managing to follow the bird in the scope several times.
There was still time left in the month to make my first ever trip to the Isle of Wight, where I added Wilson's Phalarope to the life list.
Before the end of the month I added a Melodious Warbler to my life list, all thanks to Brian who having already made the trip days before drove back up to Nottingham so that I could see the bird.


With so many fantastic birds seen in June, it had to slow down, and it did in July.
A Pectoral Sandpiper watched locally at Rainham Marshes was a highlight of the month. 
As was finding a family of Little Owls within a few minutes walk of the house. I spent some very enjoyable mornings watching the youngsters growing up and the adults hunting the surrounding area.
A day trip to Titchwell at the end of the month produced 17 Spoonbills. It's a pleasure seeing one of these birds but 17 together was a real thrill.


Things picked up again in August. The highlight of the month being the trip to Horsey in Norfolk to add the Roller to my life list, What a stunning bird! On the return journey home we stopped off at Ouse washes and added another lifer in the form of a Blue-winged teal.
Oare Marshes produced my second ever Temminck's Stint, and a local trip to Chingford Reservoirs added a Red-necked Phalarope.
Landguard NR in Suffolk is normally visited a few times throughout the year and this year it came up trumps when a Wryneck was seen here.
Sabine's Gull was at last added to my life list when four adults were found in Aveley bay at Rainham and to round the month off a trip to Grove ferry produced another lifer in the form of a Spotted Crake.


September proved to be a very quiet month bird wise. The only highlight being a very close encounter with a stunning Red-backed Shrike. Showing down to a few feet at the new reserve at Bower's marsh in Essex.
Having dipped on the Brown Shrike at Hook-with-Warash LNR in Hampshire and struggling to find any birding sites nearby we dropped in at the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey.
It turned out to be a fantastic day. If you want close encounters with many of Britain's mammals then you won't be disappointed with a visit here. Red Squirrels were running across our shoulders and one perched on my camera lens at one point. Badgers and Otters gave superb views and if you wanted to grab a few photos of these animals this is the place to visit.


After a disappointing month bird wise in September things started to pick up again in October.
A visit to Wareham Greens in Norfolk in the first week of the month gave me another life tick in the form of a Red-breasted Flycatcher.
Missing the chance to go for the Lesser Grey Shrike in Suffolk I managed to add it to my life list with a visit to Capel Fleet in Kent when another Lesser was reported from here. 
A day trip to Norfolk came up trumps with a Long-eared Owl seen in the dunes at Cley and then two more lifers were added when a Pallas's Warbler was seen at Wareham Greens and a Dusky Warbler was heard and then seen in the pouring rain at West Runton.
A trip to Keyhaven Lagoons in Hampshire failed to produce a Long-billed Dowitcher, But at Hayling Island the Semipalmated plover certainly made up for it. The trip made even more memorable when we got caught up in the back end of a tornado on the walk back to the car. I've never seen anything like it, in fact I couldn't see anything at all. 
The month ended on a high with two more lifers when I caught up with my first Two-barred Crossbill, having dipped this species on 4-5 occasions earlier in the year it was fantastic to finally get to see one. A stunning male bird at Hemstead Forest. An added bonus was a male Parrot crossbill seen during the same trip.


November was probably the worst month of the whole year for me.
Very few trips or birds.
The only exception was a trip to Suffolk to watch Common crossbills feeding and drinking around the edges of a car park.
Spending an enjoyable few hours watching them from the comfort of the car.


Wallasea Island was the first trip of the month and it produced good sightings of Hen and Marsh Harriers along with a pair of Peregrines. We spent the rest of the day on the seafront photographing Sanderling and Turnstones.
A brief visit to Amwell NR in Hertfordshire gave good views of Smew, Goldeneye and what is probably a hybrid Harris hawk x Common Buzzard.
Crumbles Pond in Eastbourne was the destination when a Black-throated Diver was reported from here. Giving great views although it proved difficult to photograph.
The month and year ended with a bang when a Brunnich's Guillemot was found at Portland harbour in Dorset.
What a way to bring 2013 to a close!

2013 has given me some fantastic memories from places visited, people met and of course the birds seen.

This year I've managed to add another twenty six birds to my life list!
It's still a relatively small list, but adding to it is going to provide even more fantastic memories.

A special thanks  has to again go to Brian without his help and his constant driving  seeing the majority of these birds would be impossible. (Thanks mate)
Dad continues to provide the back-up driving and the comedy moments even when there's no birds to be found we still have a laugh.

Come midnight tonight it not only brings with it the start of a  new year, but more importantly the start of a new birding year.

Happy New Year  to one and all

Here's to 2014

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Brunnich's Guillemot, Portland Harbour Dorset

Boxing Day and news breaks of a "Mega" found in Portland Harbour in Dorset. A Brunnich's Guillemot had been found "showing well from Osprey Quay".
A species that is normally to be found wintering off the Arctic coasts of Greenland, Iceland and Newfoundland in Canada. Although many remain throughout the year in the Barents Sea North of Norway and Russia
Today was the first chance we had of making the trip, and so after meeting up at 5am we started the 168 mile trip from Essex.
Making great time, despite the dreaded average speed cameras on route and several lorry convoys, we pulled into Mulberry Avenue and had parked the car by 7.30am
As was expected a good number of birders were already searching for the bird, even though the harbour was still in semi darkness.
Making our way towards the first group of birders, a small dark shape appeared close in to the water's edge. It was quickly confirmed as the Brunnich's.
As the light improved many more birders arrived , At some points during the morning the whole length of the harbour walkway was covered with birders and photographers.
The bird would appear briefly, giving brief views before diving under the water and re-appearing some distance away from where it dived.
It then became a guessing game as to where it would pop up next. Many birders and photographers choosing to walk up and down the length of the harbour walkway.
A small group of people from the sailing club appeared on the jetty and took to the water in a small rowing boat. As luck would have it when they returned the bird popped up right in front of them and it pushed the bird closer towards the water's edge.
This was my chance to grab a couple of photo's before it disappeared under the surface again.

Brunnich's Guillemot

Brunnich's Guillemot

Brunnich's Guillemot

While waiting for the Brunnich's to re-appear, several scans of the harbour produced plenty of other good birds.
None more so then the Black Guillemot that was found feeding around a small boat and a group of buoys. There were 2 possibly 3 Great Northern Divers within the harbour and large numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers were on show. Several Shags were joined by a Common Guillemot and a couple of Razorbills and a Kingfisher zipped past close by.

After several hours we dropped in at Radipole Lake. The reserve centre was showing plenty of signs of storm damage, and was surrounded by scaffolding, but it remained open to visitors.
After having been informed of the presence of a Glossy Ibis showing well a short distance away in a flooded playing field, it would have been wrong not to have a look for it.
The playing field was only partially flooded and contained 1 football pitch and a children's play area.
The bird was still present and busy feeding among the sodden grass. It didn't seem bothered by the children playing on the swings or the small group of birders watching it.
Occasionally it took to the air, only to circle round and land again soon after.

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

On the way home we made a detour to Walpole Park in Gosport hoping to bag the Ring-billed Gull.
Parking the car our luck was in when a local lady was busy feeding the local gulls. Among them was our target bird. 
I grabbed a couple of photo's before the birds were put up into the air by a local dog. They took to the small lake and once they had settled a Mediterranean Gull was also found among them.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

A great day.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

CoalHouse Fort, Tilbury

The plan was to reach Coalhouse Fort well before high tide.
The plans went a little awry and we arrived at Tilbury at high tide. The result being very few birds to be seen.

The first birds seen were two Grey Plovers, both were struggling to find a perch between them
A small flock of Corn Buntings were seen around the moat area and a pair of Stonechat were a welcome sight, a single Little Egret was also seen when it flew from the moat.

Avocets were very much in evidence, with a count approaching 1500 birds. Shelducks were also seen in good numbers with over 100 birds seen.
A single Great Black-backed Gull drifted over and put the huge flock of Avocets up briefly. 

On route home we dropped in at Rainham and parked up at the Stone barges.
Good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits were roosting on the barges along with Redshanks, Lapwings and smaller numbers of Dunlin.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Black-throated Diver, Crumbles Pond. Eastbourne

We took a drive down to Eastbourne this morning, hoping the Black-throated Diver would still be present on Crumbles Pond in Princes park Eastbourne.
This is the same site that was graced by a Bonaparte's Gull at the start of the year.
The plan was to arrive at first light and hope the bird was still present. Unfortunately unforeseen traffic queues meant we arrived later than intended, and had to watch the sun rise while still on route.
The good news though was when we did eventually arrive the bird was still present.

A single photographer was already on site, and with what sun there was nicely behind us we sat ourselves down and waited for the bird to approach.
The bird spent much of the first 30 minutes close to the far bank, but as the park and the pond  area got busier with dog walkers the bird started to drift towards the middle of the pond.
With more and more people turning up, and walking around the concrete path the bird spent more time in the middle or far edges of the pond.
It showed no interest in the bread being thrown out by a couple of photographers that had turned up, and in fact swam away from the commotion this caused among the Black-headed Gull masses.

I managed to grab a couple of photos when the bird drifted a little closer,  but conditions were not ideal and I spent much of the time there just watching the bird through the bins.

Black-throated Diver

On the way home we stopped off at Tide Mills on the off chance that the juvenile Spoonbill may have dropped into the creek to feed.
Unfortunately there was no sign of it.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Afternoon at Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire

I spent the late afternoon at Amwell today, being only 30 minutes from home.
After parking the car along Amwell lane it's a short walk across the railway lines and up the footpath to the viewing area looking across Great Hardmead Lake.
A quick scan produces a male Pintail followed shortly afterwards by a Common Snipe along the edges of one of the islands.
Plenty of gulls were present but after scanning through them all I couldn't pick out any Yellow-Legged or Caspian among them. Both species having been reported as present on the 4th among the gull roost. A Water Rail flies in and drops down among a small patch of reeds in front of us. Soon afterwards it appears in the short vegetation and gives good views before making its way back in among the reeds.
As we made our way down the path past the Bittern Pool a Cetti's Warbler was very vocal in the scrub to our right. Before heading off towards Tumbling bay we took the right-hand fork and reached an area with a few bird feeders hanging from a tree in a nearby field.
A large bird catches my attention as it flies up off the ground and perches at the top of a nearby tree.

Tumbling Bay was pretty quiet with only the commoner species present, so we headed back along the footpath and another scan of Great Hardmead Lake.
More gulls had flown in to roost, but again after a lengthy scan, still no Yellow-legged or Caspian Gulls could be found.

Just before the light had completely gone another scan of the lake produced 2 male Goldeneye and at least 5 females and with this group was a single redhead Smew.

A short but very enjoyable few hours spent here, and only 30 minutes from home.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Harriers, Peregrines and Sanderlings in Essex

Having missed the trip last weekend, we re-visited Wallasea this morning hoping for sightings of harriers and maybe owls.
The temperatures were predictably low, but the wind was minimal, helped by the fact that we were below the grass banks bordering the estuary.
After a short wait and scan, the first harrier appeared in the form of a female Marsh Harrier. It drifted across searching for a meal and soon dropped down out of view.
Shortly afterwards a ringtail Hen Harrier flew into view as it quartered the marshes. Staying much lower to the ground it soon dropped down among the vegetation.
Shortly after the female Marsh Harrier reappeared and with it a pair of peregrines. They proceeded to put a flock of Lapwings into the air and we watched as they separated a single bird from the flock.
After a couple of very narrow escapes, the lapwing somehow managed to evade the two birds and flew back towards the flock.
A third Peregrine flew across calling while we were watching the other two birds, maybe a juvenile of this pairs breeding success?
Kestrels were regularly seen hunting the marshes but there was no sign of any owls.
There were small flocks of Corn Buntings seen flying overhead and occasionally they would settle in a single tree bordering the road.

Corn Bunting

From here we made a trip to the seafront and found plenty of Turnstones soon after leaving the car. Sanderlings were also present in good numbers. A flock of some fifty birds were found feeding along the water's edge.
Dog walkers pushed the birds towards us on occasions, giving us the chance of some photos. The weather conditions were not good, very overcast and no breaks in the thick cloud cover made it difficult to photograph the birds.


The Turnstones soon joined the Sanderling to feed at the water's edge.


A visit from one of the cafe workers with some leftover food soon brought in the local gulls.
Among the numerous Black-headed gulls there were also Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Common and a few Mediterranean Gulls.

Common Gull

Mediterranean Gull

A cold but very enjoyable mornings birding.

Saturday, 16 November 2013


The plan today was to arrive at the site in Suffolk  at first light and hope the Crossbills were still in the area.
The only problem being the site was locked and not due to open until 9am!

Luckily Lackford Lakes is not far away and we spend a couple of hours passing the time here.
It proves pretty quiet , I managed to miss a fly over Sparrowhawk but did get good views of Water Rail and Muntjac Deer.

Back at the original site we park up and it's not long before 9 Crossbills are seen flying over.
They perch in a nearby tree and eventually drop down to drink from a puddle allowing for a few photos.

A stop off at Lakenheath on the way home, with views of Bearded Tits, Marsh harriers and  Kingfisher being the highlights.
A new hide is being erected at Lakenheath "Mere Hide" and it should be ready by Christmas. Situated in among the reedbeds it could produce close views of some of the reedbed specialities.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Two-barred and Parrot Crossbills at Hemsted Forest, Kent

With Brian working this morning, Dad and myself decide to try our luck with Crossbills at Hemsted Forest in Kent.
Leaving home at 6.30am it's a straight forward drive through the Blackwall Tunnel along the A2, M25 and then onto the A21. Turning onto Cranbrook Road, Biddenden shortly before 8am.
Plenty of cars were already parked up in the small area in front of the Forestry Commission sign post and along the road either side of the barrier.
Leaving the car and heading up the dirt track to find plenty of birders already scanning the surrounding areas East and West of the clearing.

Birders scanning the surrounding trees from the clearing.

Shortly after arriving the first flock of Crossbills fly across and land in trees to the right of the track. But there's only Commons in this flock.
A similar pattern follows as small flocks of Crossbills fly in and land in trees. The flocks are scanned and all appear to be Commons.

Then shortly before 9am another flock fly in and land in trees to the right of the track. After getting the scope onto them and scanning through the birds a stunning male Two-barred Crossbill is found.
The flock stay in the tree feeding for around 10 minutes giving great views. The Two-barred can be easily picked out on colour alone. Being much more pinkish red than the Common Crossbills feeding around it. 
An interesting bird is found among the flock feeding and looks a good candidate for parrot Crossbill. 
The flock fly off, only to circle round and land in an Oak tree much closer to the track where we are scanning from. I counted fifteen birds in the Oak tree, one of which is the Two-barred.

A mixed flock of Redpoll and Siskin fly across and disappear behind the trees to the left of the track. Shortly afterwards another flock of birds fly overhead and head for the trees near the start of the entrance track. After scanning them with the scope, they are found to be Redwings.

We decide to follow a group of Kent birders down the track and scan the trees which reports suggest are the favoured feeding areas for Parrot Crossbills.
Another flock fly over and while scanning through them, one of the guys calls a single bird perched up near the top of a tree close to us.
As soon as the scope is on it, it looks very good for Parrot Crossbill. It shows all the features you would hope for when checking.
A flat crown that almost merges into the top of the bill, a huge bill with parallel looking ivory cutting edges, thick necked.
Another single bird flies across calling, the call sounds much deeper than a Common and is agreed to be another likely Parrot Crossbill.

A very rewarding morning with three types of Crossbills, two of which are lifers!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Semipalmated Plover and a Tornado on Hayling Island

An early morning text from Brian on Sunday, sees us meeting up at six and heading for Hampshire.
Target bird was the Semipalmated Plover on Hayling Island, High tide was forecast for around midday, so we made our first stop Keyhaven Marsh.
Early morning news of the presence of the Long-billed Dowitcher on Fishtail Lagoon started what turned out to be a very frustrating few hours.
After lengthy scans of Keyhaven lagoon, Fishtail Lagoon and Butts Lagoon there was no sign of the Dowitcher.
It wasn't through lack of effort, we walked each lagoon four times, Spending far more time here than we wanted, hoping the high tide would push the bird back onto one of the lagoons. Birds seen here were Golden and Grey Plovers in good numbers along with Greenshank, Redshank, Knot, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits and a single Ringed plover. But eventually we had to leave for Hayling Island if we were to stand any chance of bagging the Plover.
There was just time to drive round to Milford on Sea to catch up with the Red-breasted Goose at "Cut off Bridge" aptly named as the barrier was across the road and the other side of the road was now part of the marshes.

Red Breasted Goose

After watching the kite surfers performing on the water, it was time to turn the car round and head off to Hayling Island.

Having found a spot to park the car at Eastoke Corner, we walked East along the beach in what was becoming worsening conditions.
We joined a group of birders on the shingle and after a few directions managed to pinpoint the target bird.
Pleased that the bird was still present, we walked back down the footpath and made our way around to where another group of birders were scanning from.

From this location we managed decent views, and watched it resting and then moving further up the beach among groups of Sanderling and Ringed Plovers as the tide encroached up the beach
While enjoying the bird we failed to notice the weather changing dramatically overhead, and before we knew it we were caught in the back end of an earlier Tornado.
The rain was incredible, it was so heavy I couldn't see either Brian a few yards ahead of me or dad a few yards behind me. It fell so fast and so heavy it took my breath away and completely drenched me in the process.
The torrential rain certainly gave the optics a through test. One which they seem to have passed without any problems.

Luckily Brian had a change of clothes to drive home in, I wasn't so lucky and when we stopped at a garage to refuel I had to wring my socks out and empty my boots of a surprising amount of water.

Another great days birding, which saw Brian pass last years total and dad bag his 300th bird, and all three of us add another lifer to our lists.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Pallas's and Dusky Warblers in Norfolk

With strong North Easterlies and rain forecast for most of the morning in Norfolk, we set off at 5am heading for Sheringham. With road closures on the way it was a slower journey than the normal two hours.
Light rain in Essex turned into heavy rain as we approached Norfolk, but nearing Sheringham the rain died down and by the time we were parking the car at 7.15 the rain had almost stopped completely and the strong North Easterlies were now just a gentle breeze.
The hoped for Petrel or Shearwater movement didn't happen and the session only produced single figure Bonxies and Red-throated Divers, plus larger numbers of Gannets, Cormorants, Common Scoters, Brents, Wigeon and Teal.

As the shelter started to empty, the pager announced the presence of a Long-eared Owl at Cley. With the car parked up at Cley beach we headed off across the shingle towards Swarovski hide. The LEO had relocated to the sand ridges on the beach a short distance from the hide by the time we arrived.
After a quick scan of the ridges the LEO is located and showing well. 

Long-eared Owl

While watching the LEO the pager bleeps into action informing us of a Pallas's Warbler present at Barns Drift just off Old Woman's Lane. After arriving at the site there's no sign of the bird. An hour's searching still doesn't produce any sightings of the bird and with time short we decide to head off towards Titchwell.
On route to Titchwell we debate whether to make a stop at Garden Drove. A Rustic Bunting was found here the previous day but with no news of it's presence today we decide to drive on.
Approaching Titchwell news comes through of another Pallas's Warbler, this time at Warham Greens!
A U-turn and ten miles back along the road we park up at Stiffkey and walk the coastal path. Eventually finding the location the Pallas's is quickly found. A stunning little bird and a lifer for myself and dad and a year tick for Brian.

With time not on our side, news breaks of a Dusky Warbler found at West Runton.
This brought back memories of the failed attempt of the Dusky Warbler I had tried for at Walthamstow. Torrential rain and no sign of the bird it was not a good memory.
As we approached the site the rain started to fall, and news on site was not that encouraging. It was starting to feel all to familiar.
Standing alongside the small group of birders presence the bird begins to call, the "Chek Chek" call giving us an area to concentrate on. The bird calls regularly and eventually gives brief views as it heads along the line of bushes and drops into the largest bush closest to the cliff top.
Another lifer added to the trip and the memories of that failed attempt now not quite as painful.
Before leaving the site an added bonus comes when a Great Grey Shrike is spotted perched up in some Willows along the far side of the adjacent field.

With the closure of the A11 the journey home was eventful to say the least. The road diversions were of no help at all and only added to the frustration.
The no show of the predicted early morning North Easterlies and the road closures and delays still didn't take anything away from another cracking days birding in Norfolk.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Lesser Grey Shrike, Capel Fleet. Kent

This morning I decided to wait and see if the Lesser Grey Shrike had stuck overnight before making the trip.

At 7.54 this morning the news I wanted to hear came through. The shrike had stayed overnight and was showing well again at Capel Fleet.
With Brian having already seen the Leiston bird, it's just the two of us this morning who set off in pursuit of the bird.
After the 62 mile drive we are driving along Harty Ferry Road looking for the reported wooden bridge that needs crossing. As luck would have it a car pulls out just as we pull up and the spot is bagged in quick time.
The wooden bridge is in the field alongside the road, and access is via a metal gate that leads to a public footpath. What we didn't know at the time was that after crossing the wooden bridge and climbing the grass bank we would have to walk across a ploughed field. A quick look along the grass path on the other side pin-pointed where all the birders were gathered, and we quickly made our way towards them.
Stopping close to the first person along the line I'm pleased to see it's Howard from Rainham Marshes RSPB. It's always a pleasure to meet Howard and he soon had us on the shrike in no time.
A stunning looking bird, it's busy feeding and spends it's time either perched atop of one of the bushes or down on the ground in search of food items.
Saying goodbye to Howard who has to leave, we walk further along the grass path and join the group at the end of the line.
A very good move as the shrike flies straight to the top of the nearest bush to us and gives terrific views. The scope is filled with Lesser Grey Shrike and it gave stunning views.
While enjoying views of the shrike an added bonus arrives in the form of two Lapland Buntings that fly across the field calling overhead.
A life tick and two year ticks added today.

If only those Two-barred's would show themselves when I am down there at Lynford.
With news of them showing well again today, I'm going to have to have another go soon and hope for better luck when I do.

Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Norfolk

At last, the year list moves!

News of a Red-breasted Flycatcher at Warham Greens in Norfolk on Friday sees us heading towards the site early Saturday morning.
Yet another stop off at Lynford Arboretum in search of the elusive Two-barred's. After another two hour search still no sightings of any Two-Barreds.
Plenty of Common Crossbills were seen along with many annoying Chaffinch and Siskin and the odd sightings of Coal Tit and Goldcrest.

So it's another dip on the Two-barreds, I make that Four visits and four no-shows now. Here's hoping they will stick around now throughout the winter and give me yet another opportunity to try to see them. 

So off towards Warham Greens hoping for better luck with the target bird. Heading along Stiffkey Road, Brian quickly finds the track. (Garden Drove). The sign at the entrance to the track is not encouraging "Unsuitable for motors"  I would imagine in bad weather or winter this would be a sign to take notice off, but it's a fine October day and the track causes no problems other than avoiding a few potholes.
Parking up at the end of the track, it's a short walk down the narrower track to the left and within five minutes of arriving, I've had my first view of a Red-breasted Flycatcher. Granted it was brief and in flight but it was a view, I wouldn't have been pleased if that was the only view I was to get, but luckily it wasn't.
Within a few minutes, the bird flew back left and landed in full view allowing good views through the bins. I left the site much happier having had some good views of the bird. 
At last the year list can move again, and with it so can the life list!

From here it's off to Titchwell, where we spent a relaxing afternoon wandering around the reserve. At Pat's Pool, I managed to locate a Jack Snipe, which showed well for a short time along with good numbers of Common Snipe.
News came through of a Yellow-browed Warbler having been seen around Meadow Trail, but we failed to see or hear it during our searches.
The small pools within the Meadow Trail were alive with Dragonflies, and the camera came out to grab a couple of shots.

Scanning Freshwater Marsh from Island hide produced a single Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper along with good numbers of Dunlin, Ruff and Golden Plovers. Another scan of the marsh from the pathway and a second Little Stint is found a short distance from the first.

Little Stint

Volunteer Marsh which has been very quiet on our last couple of visits, produces superb views of two Greenshank and three Spotted Redshanks plus both Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew and Grey Plover.


Back at Freshwater Marsh, and more views of the Little Stints and Curlew Sandpiper were had, that was until a Peregrine came visiting looking for an easy meal. But after several passes, it leaves the area without any reward.

On the drive, home news breaks of a Lesser Grey Shrike found at Capel Fleet. It's too late today to divert, but having missed the bird at Leiston in Suffolk early this year I'm keen to try for it tomorrow if it has stuck overnight.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

British Owls

The British Wildlife Centre houses all seven species of British Owl.

Although some are more British than others, it was good to observe them at close quarters.

I managed to grab a few shots of four of the owls.

Tawny Owl

The Owls proved more difficult to photograph than most of the other animals at the centre.

Long-eared Owl
The owls were bought out into an area called "The Dell" for a display.
Five of the owls were used in the display when we were there. Of the seven owls the Little Owl and the Short-eared Owl were not flown.

Snowy Owl
A stunning bird, but difficult to get any natural looking shots given the surroundings.
There was a real shortage of natural looking perches, and half of the area would have a background of people in the shots.

Eagle Owl

I managed this shot while the bird was inside it's normal enclosure.
The rest of the Eagle Owl shots were taken during the display.

Eagle Owl

Eagle Owl

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Badgers atThe British Wildlife Centre

Having been interested in wildlife all my life, I find it incredible that I have never managed to see a Badger alive in the wild.
The closest I've got to seeing one is when  I have come across one laying motionless by the side of the road, sadly an all too frequent occurrence.

So when I approached the Badger enclosure it was no great surprise to find it devoid of Badgers.
But after wondering off to look at the snake pens, I gave a quick glance over the side of the Badger pen and was shocked to see a Badger wondering around it's enclosure.

Sadly with the current cull taking place in parts of the country, far fewer badgers will be alive in the wild.

A cull that is ill conceived and ill advised.
A cull that is widely condemned by leading scientists.
The Isle of man has no Badgers yet bovine TB has been present.

This cull makes no sense, has no credibility or scientific basis.
Yet it's still taking place.

And we call ourselves a nation of animal lovers!!