Saturday, 31 January 2015

Serin at Gunners Park Essex

Breaking news shortly before 9am this morning of two Serin again present at Gunners Park. Plans for a visit were hastily made.
A quick phone call to Brian who was working and arrangements were quickly made to meet at 10.45. The 37 miles was much slower to cover at this time of day.
Pulling in to the main car park off Campfield Road, the signs were not looking good. Birders were scattered about and were obviously trying to relocate the birds.
We decided to take another route and head towards the seafront, searching any likely looking habitat on the way. 
The only birds seen during this time were Redshank, Turnstone, Sanderling, Little Egret and a single male Stonechat.
While heading back towards the car park, news filtered through that the Serin had re-appeared again in the scrub Northeast of the main car park.
A brisk walk later and a very smart looking Serin is found perched on an outer branch of the nearest tree to us. Not only that but while watching it, the second Serin flew in to join it.


We spent the next 15-20 minutes watching them feeding among the trees and vegetation before they decided to fly over the car park and alight on bushes in the Southwest corner.

The trip was made even more enjoyable with the presence of some familiar faces. Giving us the chance to catch up before leaving.

From Gunners Park it is only 3.5 miles to Southend Pier, a brief stop along the seafront a short distance from here and it wasn't long before Mediterranean Gull was added to the year list. Having found one Med Gull several more were soon added. Also along the water's edge were large flocks of Dunlin and smaller numbers of Sanderling and Redshank.

Wallasea Island has in recent years become a regular site visited, and it was too close today not to drop in.
Pulling into the car park we were greeted by the sound of a noisy flock of Corn Buntings that were busily feeding amongst the short grasses close by.
The weather was by now taking a turn for the worse, with a freezing biting wind and light rain falling. Brian then spotted the Rough-legged Buzzard away in the distance moving along the far bank, as it flies along the bank it disturbs a Short-eared owl. It flies along the bank for a short distance then drops back down out of sight.
The Rough-legged however continues it's search for food, giving superb scope views as it flies straight into the wind and with a couple of wing flaps just hangs in the air.
Moving around to the gate for another scan there was a huge flock of Linnet flying across the field and the Rough-legged Buzzard is also quickly re-found flying low along the bank, it then dropped onto the bank, giving fantastic views through the scope again.
The weather by now was rapidly getting worse, with the rain now turning to sleet and snow. It was time to head for home.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Surf Scoter, Wrabness

With the Surf Scoter still being reported around the Wrabness, Bradfield area, we thought it was time to pay it a visit.
The visit would have been sooner if we had not already bagged the Surf Scoter present at Holkham last year. The Essex/Suffolk bird has now been present since the early part of November and at times been reported as showing well.
Parking up along the main road and taking Shore Lane down to the shoreline we began scoping the area for the Scoter.
The tide was out thus leaving small strips of open water between the narrow spits of land. Good numbers of Goldeneye, Brent Geese, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Avocet, Great Crested Grebe, Curlew and Red Breasted Merganser were present along with a couple of probable Slav Grebes.
An hour of scanning failed to locate the target, with a couple of possible sightings within this time. But the distance and the constant diving made it hard work pinning the bird down.
Having decided to head back to the car and try another scan from Wrabness, it wasn't long before we were pulling into the car park and heading along the path towards the hide.
A couple of familiar faces were already on site a little further along from the hide but had so far failed to spot the bird. Brian joined them while I took up a spot in the hide to start another search.
A short while later a shout went up from Brian to say he had the Scoter in his bins. A quick swivel of the scope and the bird was found.

Dark bird to the left of centre (honestly) 

Although still quite distant, we were able to get some really nice scope views as it swam and dived around marker 5.
Satisfied with the views of the Scoter it was back to the car, but not before adding another year tick in the form of  Bullfinch. Three birds were seen including two very smart looking males.

Before heading home we made a quick stop at Abberton and a scan from Layer Breton causeway.
Plenty of Greylags close in, and then while scanning the water a Bittern came into view as it flew low across the water and dropped into the front of the reeds. It stayed there for a short time before heading further into the reeds and out of view.
Plenty of Snipe were found resting up on a small island, but no Jack Snipe were found among them. Another scan and a pair of Smew were found, A stunning male swimming with a redhead. Soon after another two males were seen. 
A small aprty of White-fronted geese were reported from here, but a scan of every part of both stretches of water and the surrounding fields failed to locate them today.
A nice consolation came in the form of a fly through Kingfisher and great scope views of a low flying Sparrowhawk for another much needed year tick.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Hawfinch, Lynford Arboretum

We paid a very enjoyable visit to Lynford Arboretum this morning, with the main target being Hawfinch.
Arriving at first light we set off along the main track heading towards the paddock.
As we walked across the stone bridge we found a Marsh Tit coming down to the feeder above the bridge.
Just across the bridge was the paddock area, where after a short search we located a single Hawfinch, it quickly dropped lower down the tree and into thicker cover.

Marsh Tit

 We watched the bird for around 40 minutes and managed some great scope views during that time.
At the second bridge there was plenty of bird activity, as several Chaffinch, Robin, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit and Nuthatch were coming to the seed that had been scattered.

As myself and dad had a close encounter with a Kingfisher along the river, Brian found a single Brambling among a small party of Chaffinch.
The walk back towards the car park produced a sizable flock of Siskin and several Treecreeper. Brian found another Brambling feeding on the path, but I again failed to see it before dog walkers flushed the flock.
Back at the manor grounds we watched Coal Tit, marsh Tit and a single Grey Wagtail dropped in to add another year tick to the day's total.

Determined to get a sighting of Brambling before heading home, we made the short trip to Santon Downham and found a large tit flock feeding among the leaf litter.
Among the Blue, Great and many Coal Tit's were small numbers of Treecreepers and Brambling.
Having finally managed to add Brambling to the year list, we still had time to take a look at the Great Grey Shrike that was in the area.


A very enjoyable mornings birding, that added another five year tick's.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Slavonian Grebe, Wanstead Park

News came through via Twitter of the Slavonian Grebe still being present at Wanstead Park, so we thought it was time to pay it a visit.
The morning was grey and overcast, but at least it was dry. 
Arriving on site shortly after 9am, we parked up close to the entrance on Northumberland Avenue, and were scanning Heronry Pond straight away.
The grebe was spotted almost immediately, distantly along the far edges of the pond, it kept close to the margins and would disappear from view into water side willows.
As we waited for the grebe to re-emerge a kingfisher flashed past and landed in the same area as the grebe.

As the grebe swam out from cover, it got harassed by a Common Gull and fled off towards the furthest end of the pond.
We started to walk around to try to re-locate the bird, but having got half way round the pond, I re-found it back in the corner we had just rounded.
It then gave superb views as it swam around within feet of the pond's edges.
I managed a few shots, before it swam further away and rounded the corner and out of view.

 A cracking bird and another great find by Nick Croft.

Twite flock on Norfolk Birding day trip

Short daylight hours, freezing overnight temperatures and mist and fog predicted for early morning.
Why wouldn't you head straight for Norfolk from Essex. At 5.45am we were doing exactly that.
The drive was slow at times with black ice and fog along much of the route. First stop was at Wolferton, where we made our only mistake of the day, by spending far too long searching for a sighting of a Golden Pheasant.
We failed to get a sighting all last year, and we failed again this time. The two previous years did produce sightings, so we will probably give it another try at some point during the year.
Within the last four years we have only ever seen male Golden Pheasant, never any females. There have been reports that there are now only two males left in this area. 

Disappointed we set off for Thornham and soon located a sizeable flock of Twite feeding close by.
This proved a good spot for adding a few year ticks, with Grey and Golden Plover, Knot, Brent Goose, Linnet and Rock Pipit all added. 


Next stop was Titchwell, a quick scan of the feeders failed to produce any Bramblings, which seem to be much scarcer this year.
Heading along the main path, a quick search of the ditches either side of the path turned up a Water Rail on either side.
Chinese Water Deer were out and about feeding, with at least four individuals noted during our visit.

Chinese Water Deer

On freshmarsh a single Water Pipit was found along with Avocet, Pintail and both Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits.
The sea was quiet with hardly any movement, But I managed to add Red-breasted Merganser, Sanderling and Turnstone.

A quick drive to Choseley Drying barns failed to turn up any Corn Buntings or Yellowhammers. A short distance along the road we pulled in and managed to add Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush and several Red-legged Partridge.

Holme was our next stop, with a reported flock of Snow Bunting the target. Parking up and heading along the path through the golf course and onto the beach we quickly found a large flock of feeding Linnets and Goldfinch, and among these were around 20+ Snow Buntings. A Lapland Bunting had been reported from Holme, but several scans of this flock failed to locate it.

Last stop of the day was to Burnham Overy, The roadside verge was full and the small car park area opposite was not much better. 
As soon as the scope was set up a Short-eared Owl was found sitting on the grass, it soon took to the air and gave some great views as it searched the longer grasses along the fence line.
A scan of the fence posts produced two Common Buzzards and then two Rough-legged Buzzards were found sitting quite close to each other on the grass behind a metal gate.

Too few hours in the day at this time of year, but it was well worth the effort.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Local birding at Connaught Water

A trip to Connaught Water this morning proved very worth while. Being only ten minutes from home is another welcome bonus.
Arriving on site early to avoid the mid morning crowds of dog walkers and young family groups is always a good idea here.
Mandarin Duck was expected, and after a little searching of the islands a pair were found sleeping at the water's edge. The majority of these birds disperse to smaller ponds within the forest during the winter.
A smart looking male Pintail came into view as we crossed the boardwalk and turned the corner.

The trees around the water's edge were alive with woodland birds busy foraging for food. It didn't take long before I heard and then saw the first Nuthatch of 2015. While watching the Nuthatch a movement close by proved to be a Treecreeper. An Egyptian Goose swam past and Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Jay were all added.
A drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker, and a single Redwing were also seen before the crowds around the lake started to build up. 

Roding valley is even closer to home and a brief walk added Greenfinch, Dunnock, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush and the now ever increasing colony of Ring-necked Parakeets.
Returning home a quick scan of the surrounding trees added two Collared Doves to the day and year list.
Sixteen species added within 10 minutes of home.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

A new birding year starts in Kent with Cattle Egrets

Normally the first day of a new birding year would see us heading towards Norfolk. But today it's not Norfolk it's Kent we head for.
Arriving at first light, we head for a brief seawatch. The wind is fierce and blowing straight into our faces. Luckily there is a guy already inside the hide and we take refuge alongside him and out of the wind.
The year kicks off with the usual gull species, Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Herring, Along with a Great Black-backed  that is found sitting on the sea. The most numerous birds seen were varying groups  of Guillemots. Razorbills were much less numerous, but a small group of five birds were enough.
A single Common Scoter and two Fulmars were nice additions to the tally.
On the drive out towards the reserve I managed to add Common Gull, having managed to miss one from the beach.
We decided to head off pass the reserve entrance and search for any sign of the Bean Geese at Walland Marsh.
Before reaching Walland Marsh, we managed to bag two Great White Egrets, one in flight over Arc Pit and a second roosting on New Diggings.
At Walland Marsh a scan through the large Bewick Swan flock failed to produce the Whooper Swan but we did find four Bean Geese among them.
A drive along Dengemarsh Road produced sightings of one of the Cattle Egrets, which was shortly joined by a second bird.

At the reserve entrance Tree Sparrow was seen and from Makepiece Hide five redhead Smew were also added, the return walk produced sightings of both Goosander and Goldeneye.
As we reached the reserve centre news came through that a Pallas's Warbler had been found just across the road.
A search of Willow Trail and the trees outside Hanson Hide failed to find the bird. A Kingfisher was performing superbly right outside the windows of the hide.
Three Chiffchaffs were watched feeding among the reeds and a Bittern was a very welcome addition as it flew across the reeds on the far bank.

Leaving Dungeness we travelled to Chilham and found the Great Grey Shrike perched up on the telegraph wires without even leaving the car.

With light fading fast, we had just enough time for a quick drive along the entrance track of Elmley.

I ended the day with 73 species, and although not as many as I would have liked, there were some nice birds on the list.