Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Green Sandpipers at Lemsford Springs

I spent a very enjoyable morning at the Herts and Middlesex Trust site of  Lemsford Springs.
The entry to this little reserve is some what unusual, in that you collect a key from a house and unlock the gates to the reserve to allow access.
The gates are right next to the house, and you unlock and lock the gates behind you, similar to the set up at Chingford Reservoir. The key also allows access to the two hides on site. 
 You have the option of following the footpath round to the first hide, or you can cross a wooden bridge and follow a circular route back to your starting point.
We decided to head for the first hide. Opening the hide hatches onto shallow spring fed lagoons of old watercress beds.
These watercress beds hold huge numbers of shrimps, which in turn attract plenty of birds to feed on them.
The target bird when we set out was Green Sandpiper, and a quick scan along the lagoons quickly found two birds busily feeding a short distance away.

Green Sandpiper

A Water Rail was also feeding in front of the hide, normally a quick glimpse is all you get before they disappear back into the reeds, but this one was feeding quite happily out among the watercress.

Water Rail

Large numbers of Moorhens were present with a handful of Teal (5 male and 1 female) 2 Common Snipe and single Grey Heron, Little Egret and Grey Wagtail.

Common Snipe

Carrion Crow

Grey Heron

We moved onto the second hide and found Ken Smith the Hertfordshire County bird recorder inside. He was busily monitoring the Green Sandpipers. Three of which have been fitted with radio transmitters to enable them to be tracked back to there breeding grounds.
In total there were five Green Sandpipers  present, all of which had been fitted with coloured rings.

Green Sandpiper

An added bonus was the sight of a Sparrowhawk swooping down low along the lagoons and landing in a water side Willow. 

A great little site, one I am sure to re-visit.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Richard's Pipit and Barn Owls in Kent

The day started with a short trip from home to Tower Hamlet's Cemetery in search of Firecrests.
Soon after parking up in Southern Grove, we are entering Sanctuary Wood. This has been quite a reliable spot for Firecrests in recent times. But despite searching the wood for close to two hours there was no sign of any this morning. 
We decided to head back up the path and try some of the other glades. Reaching the crossroads we stopped to check the map. While doing this I suddenly heard a Firecrest singing from the tree right next to us. A brief movement from within the tree and the Firecrest is found. It soon moved on across the glade into Horse Chestnut Glade. Luckily it stayed close to the front of the glade and began searching for food among the ivy covered trees and gravestones.

Lunchtime arrived and we headed for Kent. A brief drive along the entrance track at Elmley in search of the re-identified Wood Sandpiper from yesterday failed to produce any sightings.
Plenty of Lapwings, Redshanks, Golden Plover and Curlew around with smaller numbers of Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, Turnstones and Skylarks Several Marsh Harriers were also hunting the surrounding fields.

Leaving Elmley we headed for Shell Ness/Swale NNR, hoping to connect with the Richard's Pipit that has been present for a few weeks. Walking along the grass bank towards the favoured areas a Short-eared Owl flew up from below the bank and headed across the channel into the nearby field. It landed briefly before resuming it's search for food. The same field held a group of Brent Geese.
The Richard's Pipit had been seen shortly before we had arrived, but had disappeared from view. Walking further along the bank two birds were seen, one looked good for Rock Pipit and the second bird was the Richard's Pipit.
It flew up over the bank straight over Brian's head calling as it went. It seemed to drop down close to the channel bordering the field. Another search of the area failed to locate the bird again and with time pressing we decided to move on to Capel Fleet.

Nearly the end of February I had still not seen a Barn owl this year. Half way along the road leading to the viewing platform that changed.
Up out of the grass came a Barn owl, then a second bird joined it. We spent the next two hours enjoying these birds hunting. They seemed to be catching prey regularly and even a brief but heavy rain shower didn't stop them from hunting. Several Marsh harriers were also seen coming in to roost and the Corn Bunting flock were also seen perched among the usual bushes before they also went to roost.
The Barn Owls were showing constantly during the two hours, but the weather was not cooperating with the camera. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Little Bunting, Forest Farm Glamorgan

A Little Bunting showing intermittently at Ashdown Forest was tempting. But another Little Bunting showing down to a few feet was considered a much better option.
So at 5am this morning we met up with Brian and began the drive along the M25 and onto the M4 heading for Glamorgan.
A very straight forward drive, saw us arriving at Forest Farm around 7.30. Not knowing the precise location of the hide, saw us take a few wrong turns, before eventually doubling back on ourselves and locating the utility room and right next door the hide.
Upon entering we found the Little Bunting showing down to a few feet right in front of the small narrow opening in the hide.
While we were there the Bunting seemed to follow a similar pattern of dropping in to feed and drink, then fly off. It would disappear from view for 15-20 minutes then suddenly appear again to resume the same routine.

The right hand side of the hide held a couple of feeders, and these were regularly visited by Coal, Great and Blue Tits, Robins, Nuthatch and Bullfinch. With both male and female seen.

With time against us we decided to visit Cardiff Bay and search for the Lesser Scaup that has taken up residence here.
From the car park at the Wetlands Centre we took the path down to the boardwalk and quickly found the target bird. It was quite distant and stayed that way during our time there.
From here we decided to try to locate the Bonaparte's Gull. Parking up off Rover Way, and walking alongside the very pleasant smelling sewage treatment works. Plenty of Black-headed Gulls on show along with several Ringed Plover and Curlews, but no Bonaparte's Gull could be found.

The Forest of Dean was our final destination and a visit to Parkend Church, where shortly after parking up a single male Common Crossbill was found perched in the nearby trees.
Last visit of the day was to the New fancy Viewpoint. This is Goshawk territory and reaching the raised viewpoint at the top of the hill I could see why it has proved so popular.
No luck locating any Goshawks today, but the weather wasn't ideal. A location that I'm sure we will pay another visit to in the near future.

Leaving the view point a single Red Kite floating across the road above the houses was seen. It wasn't until we were much closer to home along the Watford stretch of the M25 that a second Red Kite was spotted.

A very enjoyable day, adding my first lifer of 2015 and four year ticks to the total.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Waxwings, Eventually found in Ipswich

With so few Waxwings about in the South of England this winter, we decided this morning we would try to locate the small flock in the Ipswich area.
The last report on the Waxwings yesterday reported that they had flown from the Cedarwood School entrance into the nearby housing estate at 9.35am. But there had been no further reports made on the Waxwings since that time.
Leaving around 6.30am, the 75 mile trip seemed to take even longer than normal, given the amount of traffic cones and average speed check signs along the route.
We found the school without any problems, but there was no sign of any Waxwings. What we didn't know before leaving this morning was the huge size of the housing estate that the birds had last been seen flying towards.
The next hour saw us driving round all the side roads of this estate trying to locate the flock. With no sign we eventually ended up back at the school. Brian and dad decided they were going to walk a short distance around the back of the school. On their return they managed a very brief view of the Waxwings flying out of a tall tree. Another tour round the local housing estate with no luck followed.
Just as we were pulling up outside the school again, news came through that the birds had been re-located outside a house on Colchester Road.
Colchester Road was just 2 miles from where we were parked up.  
Luckily having reached the road, the birds were seen before parking the car. Before long there was a small crowd gathered, consisting of birders, photographers and locals.
The birds were feeding on mistletoe berries within the tree, and would stay among the branches before dropping down onto the berries briefly and then returning to the upper parts of the tree. The views through the bins were good enough, but getting photos would prove far more tricky.

On the drive home we dropped in at Abberton and pulled up along Layer Breton causeway for a quick scan of the area.
Two male and a redhead Smew were quickly found along the back edge of the reeds, there was also plenty of Goldeneye around, with both male and female on show.
Last week we tried and failed to locate the small flock of White-fronted Geese that have been present this winter. Today another search was more fruitful, when six White-fronts were found resting up under trees with a few Greylags.