Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Nightjar and Woodcock in the Brecks

Arriving at the Breckland site around 9pm the first bird seen and heard was a displaying Woodlark. 
As the sun dropped behind the trees the first Woodcock was picked up flying across the trees tops.
Shortly afterwards the resident Tawny Owls started to call. 
In the time we spent on site views of ten Woodcocks were had, some may have been the same birds, two Woodcocks came bursting out of the forest trees chasing each other, only to separate and head off in different directions.
Close views were had of one individual as it flew below the tree line right in front of us, calling as it went.
Several large Bats were watched as they hunted around the trees, then Shortly after 10.15pm the first Nightjar was heard churring.
Within the next forty five minutes the calling became more vocal, and just as we were heading back along the track towards the car a Nightjar appeared above our heads.
Unfortunately there was no wing clapping display tonight, but it was still a great sight to be able to watch it so close, surrounded only by the sounds of the forest.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Mega!! Short-toed Eagle Wych Cross, East Sussex

When this bird was reported perched up in a pine tree at 9:15pm on the 31st May, The thought was I either go early next morning and get there first light, or you won't see this bird.
Circumstances prevented the trip and with it went thoughts of adding this bird to my life list.

But today while sitting at home watching the cricket, the phone goes and Brian asks "do you fancy going for the Short-toed"? So within minutes I'm in the car and meeting Brian. 
As luck would have it the bird has even moved closer to home, instead of 144 miles away in Dorset, it's only 60 miles away in East Sussex.
Approaching the site the car is running on fumes, and we have to divert a few miles away from the site to finally find some diesel.
Now 9 miles away and with no news arriving on the pager for the last half hour we make our way to the last reported location.
Pulling into the car park at Gill's Gap, we find a few familiar faces scanning the surrounding valley. A remote dot away in the distance could be the target bird, but it's so far away it's impossible to tell for sure.
Mick Davis a local birder decides to head for the reserve car park further down the road, unfortunately we lose him and can't find the car park.
Reports on the pager say "immature again from Liptons and Townsend car parks". Eventually finding Liptons car park and pulling in we find a group of birders but none on the Eagle.
A phone call from a local birder See's us heading off in convoy looking for Long car park, luckily for us the locals know exactly where this car park is.

We park up and head off down the track to where a group of fifty plus birders are already assembled. We are greeted with "It was circling over our heads 5 minutes ago, but it's drifted off now". Then a shout goes up "Got it!, It's perched at the top of the tree". After a short panic to get a location of where it was perched, the scope is trained on the spot and the Eagle comes into view.

Short-toed Eagle

It's perched up on the top of a pine tree right out in the open, giving stunning scope views. After 15-20 minutes of watching the bird, it flies up and drifts off over the surrounding area.
It remains in view for a short time and then drops down behind the nearest tree line and gone from view.

We decide to head off further down the track and scan the valley and surrounding area, a couple of Hobbies appear over the distant tree line, then a Common Buzzard appears.

Another scan and the shout goes up EAGLE!, and above the tree line is the Short-toed drifting towards us. It starts to circle directly overhead giving stunning views before gaining height, another Buzzard appears and starts to briefly mob the eagle. As the scope is trained on the two birds, it becomes view that we are actually looking at an Eagle and a Honey Buzzard!

Two fantastic birds only 60 miles from home, it doesn't get much better than that?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Savi's Warbler, Begins the short Welsh trip

Still recovering from the full day's birding in Norfolk, and the long walk out to Gun Hill for the "MEGA" Spectacled Warbler, what we didn't need was an extra 3km walk round the entire Newport Wetland reserve.
But after setting off from home at 4am we had arrived at the Centre well before the gates to the car park were open.
With the reserve centre closed the route straight out to the Savi's area was also closed off . So what we should have done was take the Eastern path for a couple of hundred yards and come back round, instead we took the path that pointed towards the lighthouse. Some 3km's away from the area we needed to be searching!
Eventually the lighthouse came into view, a surprisingly small lighthouse with nearby factory chimneys dwarfing it. As I crossed the bridge I could already hear the Savi's reeling from somewhere among the reeds.
A short walk along the path and movement was spotted in the reeds.  The Savi's was no more than 6 feet away from us.
With the reeds blowing around and plenty of them between me and the bird it proved a challenge to find an angle to grab any photo's.
Eventually I managed the two below.

Savi's Warbler

From here we headed straight for Marloes, arriving to find the boat trips to Skomer already fully booked.
Brian booked himself onto one of the round the island boat trips for later in the day. This left plenty of time to explore the deer park.
Choughs were seen on the cliff sides and several birds were heard calling overhead. A family party of Ravens were also using the cliffs.


A much overdue year tick was then seen in the shape of a Fulmar. The pair had a nest under a nearby ledge and were regularly seen flying to and fro. 
A scan across to Skomer and it's surrounding bays produced large numbers of Razorbills, Guillemots and Puffins. Several Shags were also seen perched up on rocks and also in flight.

Rock and Meadow Pipits were both seen as were several Wheatears.
After Brian returned from his 1 hour boat cruise around the island we headed off to Strumble Head. Scanning the sea from the Observation hide, it wasn't long before the first of the Manx Shearwaters were seen heading back towards Skomer.
At first most passing Shearwaters were in small groups of four birds, but as the evening wore on bigger groups were seen.
Dolphins were busy feeding out in front of us, The Gannets were busy circling around the same area waiting to cash in.
On the drive back a quick stop off at Blackpool Mill  produced another well over due year tick in the form of a Dipper. Reaching a nearby roundabout we found workmen cutting the grass, and this had attracted the attention of a Common Buzzard, waiting to grab anything that was disturbed. It was easy pickings for the Buzzard, it just waited either in a nearby tree or on  a fence post and flew down each time.
The workmen told us that there were 3-4 Buzzards that followed them around while they cut the grass.

The weather on the second day was the complete reverse of day one. Rain was already falling as we checked out of our accommodation early on Wednesday.
Staying in St Clears meant we were twenty miles closer to our destination. We headed through Llandovery and stopped at the RSPB reserve of Dinas.
The rain had been falling continuously since we set off, but at least it was easing off a little as we left the car. The first bird heard was a Tree pipit, but I failed to locate it among the tree tops. Along the boardwalk I expected to find Pied Flycatcher's and I wasn't disappointed, with a male seen leaving the nest box, and several more sightings on the walk. A short distance along the boardwalk and a Spotted Flycatcher is found. 
At the end of the boardwalk a  Wood Warbler was heard singing and then seen perched on a low branch, several more were heard on the walk.
This left just one target species to find, it proved more difficult this year than previous ones, but as I returned to the boardwalk movement along the fence line alerted me to a stunning male Redstart.
So all target species connected with, and there was still time to get views of Tree Pipit before we left.
Leaving Dinas we headed further on past Llyn Brianne and parked up in the small car park of Twyi Forest.
A short walk from here offers some stunning views across the forest, it was just a shame the weather wasn't kinder.

The last stop of the trip was to Gilfach farm, a first visit for me. Again the rain was falling quite heavily and it put paid to any chance of getting the camera out.
It was a real shame as there were Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Coal Tits, Siskins, Redpoll, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Red Kite all seen from the information car park.
Pied Flycatchers were nesting in a nearby tree, Redstarts under the information centres eaves, it would have been fantastic had the weather just eased up.

Despite the weather on the second day it was  still another two great days in Wales, producing 11 year ticks and a trip list of 100+ birds.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Spectacled Warbler: Burham Overy, Not a bad consolation!

A 5am start this morning with the destination being West Runton in Norfolk. 
The female Black-headed Bunting having been present since 28th May was the target bird.
Pulling into the disused pig farm around 7am to find several birders already scanning the favoured feeding areas.
A few enquires and it was not positive news, no sightings so far this morning.
Three hours later and after constant scanning of every bramble bush in the area we drew a blank. The only highlight of the morning being a day hunting Barn Owl.
Skylarks, Linnets and Common Whitethroats were also seen along with small flocks of Guillemots flying low over the sea heading East.
Disappointed we move on and head towards Choseley and park up near the drying barns. Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers are quickly seen around the barns and on the wires.
A Marsh Harrier drifts across quartering the field behind us, and then a second bird is seen hunting in the same field.
Still no year ticks so far this morning, but just along the road our luck changed when a single Grey Partridge was spotted from the car.
This has been a frustrating species to pin down this year, so we took the opportunity to pull the car over and take a longer look.

Titchwell was to be the next destination, The reserve was on the whole pretty quiet, but there were four Spoonbills, several Little Ringed Plovers a couple of Bearded Tits and three male Red crested Pochards present along with four Marsh Harriers in the air at the same time.
While heading back towards the cafe, news broke on the pager of a "MEGA" bird being found at Burnham Overy. A Spectacled Warbler had been found among the sand dunes at Gun Hill.
A quick stop to buy a coffee and it was back to the car and off towards Burnham. Luckily not too many birders had made it to the parking areas yet, so we were able to squeeze the car in along the side of the road and set off along the track.
Normally I get as far as scanning the area from the roadside, hoping to pick up a raptor or two, today I had to make the long trek out along the path, climbing the small grass bank we could see a small group of birders away in the distance among the dunes.
Eventually we reached the boardwalk and from here it was a relatively short walk to reach the assembled birders.
Scope set up and "Bingo" the bird is found straight away among the vegetation on the side of the dunes. 

Spectacled Warbler

Having watched it for some 10-15 minutes it suddenly took off and headed towards the boardwalk and a larger area of cover.
From here it proved more difficult to pin down, but eventually it would start singing and this seemed to be a queue for it to appear at the top of the vegetation.
A cracking bird and it more than made up for the disappointment of dipping the Black-headed Bunting earlier in the morning.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Red-necked Phalarope, Bowers Marsh

With a short Welsh trip imminent the plan was to stay home and take it easy and get packed.
This changed when news came through that a Red-necked Phalarope had been found at Bower's Marsh in Essex.
A straight forward drive along the A13 and after some 37 miles we are pulling onto the rough track leading down to the entrance at Bower's.
This track is covered with pot holes of varying sizes, from small to huge and what made it worse was many were filled with water.
The track from the entrance to the car park was not much of an improvement, being similarly pot holed and uneven.
The walk out towards the main lagoon was mostly uneventful, but was brightened by singing Reed Warblers Corn Buntings and Skylarks.
There was positive news coming from birders passing us heading back towards the car park, letting us know that the bird was still present when they left.
Reaching the end of the track it didn't take long before the target bird was found. At first the Phalarope was quite distant, but with constant harassment from the breeding Avocets, it flew in front of the nearest island giving excellent scope views.
The Phalarope looked absolutely tiny even when compared with the Avocet chicks that were feeding among the vegetation at the water's edge.

Red-necked Phalarope

The Avocets constantly flew at the Phalarope keeping it on the move, forcing it to fly from one end of the spit to the other. But it didn't seem to be to bothered and quickly settled back down to feed when it landed back on the water.
A very smart little bird and a very welcome addition to the year list.