Monday, 20 April 2015

Hoopoe No show

First stop this morning was at Hythe, hoping yesterdays Hoopoe had stayed overnight.
Unfortunately during our 2 hour stay the bird failed to show. A year tick came in the form of a Common Whitethroat and a single Red-legged partridge was watched as it walked and fed along the grass bank and fence that the Hoopoe was favouring yesterday. The only other bird of note seen here was a Grey Plover.

Dungeness was the next port of call, but this also failed to turn up many migrants. In a bitingly cold North  wind we walked the moat, trapping area and were rewarded with Chiffchaffs and a pair of Raven. A search from the obs to the lighthouse wasn't much better, with the best being several Wheatears.
A drive along the entrance track added Tree Sparrows and another year tick came in the form of five Whimbrel. 


 News came through of five Bee-eaters in Dover! Although we were already on route to the site the birds decided not to hang around so we re-located to Elmley and took a drive along the entrance track.
Redshank, Little Egret, Skylark Buzzard and Marsh harrier were seen along with a couple of Yellow Wagtails. 


A brief stop at the car park allowed some Goldfinch shots.

A day that could have delivered Hoopoe and Bee-eater but that never really got started.
There's always tomorrow!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

The birding week

The week started with a trip to The RSPB headquarters in Sandy Bedfordshire. Arriving early we headed for the sandy ridge trail in search of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. As we headed through the metal gate we were greeted by a flock of Brambling busily feeding among the beech trees.
Further along the trail and woodpeckers are very much in evidence with Great Spotted Woodpeckers calling and drumming from all directions and Green heard calling and seen feeding among the short grass.
Soon a Lesser Spotted is heard drumming in the distance, While heading in the direction of the drumming it continues to drum. Tucking ourselves away against a tree trunk we catch a glimpse of the bird as it flies across the path and lands on a tree not far from us. Unfortunately as soon as it lands a Great Spotted Woodpecker sees it off just as quickly.
A tip off from a birder sees us head off to Gypsy Lane and Broom GP's. A quick scan and several Little Ringed Plovers are located along with a couple of Ringed Plover. A Yellow Wagtail drops in with a White wagtail spotted close by. 
A scan of the Eastern end of the pits secures another two year tick when Common Terns are seen along with several Swallows flying through.

A White-spotted Bluethroat at Amwell present the previous evening saw us head there at first light. There were no expectations that the bird would have stuck overnight, and heading across the bridge the signs were not good. Consolation came in the form of two Black-necked Grebes and our first Sedge Warblers of the year.

News came through that two Black-winged Stilts were present at Bowers Marsh.
Arriving mid morning, to find no improvement to the entrance track from last year. Huge pot holes littered the track leading to the car park. 
The walk out along the path was shared with Corn Bunting and Skylark. Reaching the viewing area at the far end we found the Black-winged Stilts feeding along the far edge. The sun made viewing difficult, but the birds made it much easier when they flew across and landed closer allowing some great scope views.
It was good to see Marco already on site when we arrived, and while catching up from our last meeting a Black-necked Grebe and two Greenshank were noted. 100+ Avocet were seen along with several Redshank and a single Dunlin dropped in.

A quick trip to Lee Valley today and a Nightingale had been heard before leaving the car park. Several birds were heard in full song during the visit. With a brief sighting of a single bird a real bonus.
A female Bullfinch was another nice sighting and a Grey Heron was motionless at the waters edge.

Moving onto the Bittern Hide I found this sculpture in the picnic area.

Scanning Seventy Acres Lake for any new arrivals was disappointing, with no terns or Hobbies back yet. A couple of Reed Warblers were the only other addition to the year list. 

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Ring Ouzel & Osprey, Bedfordshire

The day started at Blows Down in Bedfordshire. The weather forecast for today was for light rain, followed by heavy rain, followed by strong winds and sunshine.
Parking up at the end of Half Moon lane, we headed off into the paddock area in search of any lingering Ring Ouzels or Redstarts from yesterday.
The paddock was very quiet, so we decided to head along the track and check the slopes and eventually the chalk pits at the far end.
The slopes were quiet but soon after reaching the pits the familiar sound of a Ring Ouzel was heard. It took a little longer to actually locate the female. Soon enough it perched up at the top of a nearby tree. 
A dog walker came through and flushed it, and it took off over the hill, circled round and landed in a tree right at the top of the pits.
A quick scan of the tree revealed two Ring Ouzels, a male and a female. No sooner had we locked on to them with the scope and another dog walker came through and the two birds dropped down back into the bottom of the pits.

An unexpected bird today was an Osprey that decided to drop in at Eversholt Lake. Luckily we were not far from the site, and after a quick drive around looking for the lake's location we were parked up and heading down to the lake.
A small group of birders were already present and the bird could be seen through the trees at the far side of the lake well before reaching them.
Some had witnessed the bird catching two fish since it dropped in, and the birds crop did look quite full. Having watched it for some time, it suddenly flew from the tree circled the lake and landed in another tree at the far end of the lake.
Once we re-located it, I grabbed a couple of shots with my phone, hand held to my scope.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Scotland birding trip 2015, Eagles, Dolphins & Deers

Day 4: Sunday 7th April

The last day of the trip, With the flight back to Stansted  due to leave at 8.10pm we had plenty of time left to take a drive along the road towards the Ardnamurchan lighthouse. 
The weather today was much warmer, but there was still rolling mist to contend with as we drove along the narrow roads. Having left the Hotel at first light, we had to take the longer route round Loch Linnhe as the Corran Ferry was not running at this early hour.
The first bird of the morning is a Woodcock, flushed from the roadside as we approached. Red Deer were seemingly everywhere this morning either bounding across the road in front of us or feeding in roadside fields.

Red Deer

Further into the journey Brian spots a large raptor perched up on a mountain ridge as we approach. Pulling over and viewing through the bins reveals it to be a White-tailed Eagle. It took to the air and flew directly above us giving stunning views! It drifts away and drops down below the mountain and out of sight.

White-tailed Eagle

From the same location we find our first Wheatear of the trip and year, and it's quickly followed by four more. Perhaps they had just arrived back in the Highlands that day?


 While waiting for the post office in Kilchoan to open so we could get some much needed diesel. ( yes the guy who ran the post office also pumped the diesel across the road). We decided to drive back to the Kilchoan ferry terminal. Twite were seen on the telegraph wires and several dolphins were seen  from the ferry boarding stage along with several Great Northern Divers.

Bottlenose Dolphin

 As we approached the Ardnamurchan lighthouse, Ravens were "kronking" and became even more vocal when a Buzzard appeared on the scene.
A scan from the lighthouse produced several Gannets, Divers and another year tick in the form of four Manx Shearwaters.
The return trip back towards Fort William was made more memorable by a pair of Golden Eagles thermalling high above the mountain ridges, and then dropping down below the mountain top and giving fantastic scope views. We watched them for 30 minutes before we had to reluctantly start the 100 mile drive back down to Glasgow Airport.

Another amazing Scotland trip, which added 2 more life birds, 22 year ticks and 90+ species over the course of the trip. 

Scotland birding trip 2015

Day 3: Saturday 4th April

A slightly later arrival at Loch Garten this morning, but again there are no capers on show, so again we retreat to the car park and console ourselves with great views of Crested Tits. 
A quick stop at Boat of Garten nails an Iceland Gull year tick and then it's off to Lochindorb.
The area is home to quite a large Common Gull colony, and there are plenty of Red Grouse all around this area. Good to see more females were on show this year than in previous visits.

A quick scan located a pair of Black-throated Divers at the Southern end  of the Loch close to the ruined Lochindorb castle. At the Northern end a pair of Red-throated Divers were also on show.
Red Squirrels were also seen from here, as they left the trees and came across the road to feed among the heather.
As we approached Dulcie Bridge we got lucky when the Rough-legged Buzzard that had been frequenting the area in recent days flew straight across the car heading towards the pine trees some distance away.
No chance of any photos, as it had almost reached the trees before we could exit the car.

A view from Dulcie Bridge

Oystercatchers seemed to be in every field we passed during the whole trip, and some even gave us a chance of a photo.

The weather this morning was a huge improvement on yesterday, so we headed off  along the A9 towards Tomatin and the Findhorn Valley. Having reached the Findhorn Bridge it was onto narrow single track roads for another 10 miles before reaching the end of the valley and car park.
On route a large raptor was spotted to our left, and after pulling over and scoping the bird, we were straight onto a White-tailed Eagle! It was being mobbed by two Buzzards and then by a much more aggressive smaller hawk. Another large raptor appeared on the scene, this time a juvenile Golden Eagle!
At times I had the Goldie and the White-tailed in the scope at the same time. Amazing views of two stunning birds.
After reaching the end of the track, we parked up and considered anything else to be a bonus. Kestrels were hovering close by on both sides of the road and a Peregrine flew along the valley before perching up on the rocks. As we chatted to a local birding tour party another White-tailed Eagle appeared over the ridge. It descended below the mountain side allowing for some stunning scope views.
A long drive back towards our base was broken up by views of more Black Grouse and a confiding Hare by the roadside.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Scotland birding trip: Harlequin Duck!

Day Two: Friday 3rd April

Looking at the weather forecast for today didn't feel us with any real optimism.
Nevertheless we set off for Loch Garten and the 5.30am Caper Watch. Throughout the two and a half hours there wasn't a hint of any Capers showing. 
The good news was the return of the female Osprey "EJ" to Loch Garten. She had arrived at 5pm the previous evening. During a brief spell outside the hide I did manage views of a Red Squirrel which was coming down to a feeder.

The reserve only opens from 5.30am-8am and then closes again until 10am. So we returned to the car park and parked up by the feeder at the far end of the car park, and were eventually rewarded with views of Crested tit.

Crested Tit

The weather hadn't improved, but news came through that the Harlequin Duck had reappeared again after going missing all day yesterday.
So we decided to head East across the Highlands to Aberdeen. Most of the journey was along the A95 and A96. The journey was slow and the weather wasn't improving, if anything it was getting worse!
We arrived around midday and after struggling to find the exact location we pulled into Seaton Park car park. From here we headed towards the old toilet block and the River Don. We headed upstream and after some 400 yards found the Harlequin Duck resting up close to the far bank. Shortly afterwards it decided to fly downstream in the presence of a Goosander. 
It landed among the rapids close to the toilet block and slowly drifted back downstream. The weather was getting worse, and drizzle turned to heavy rain. I grabbed a few record shots and then returned to enjoying this "Mega" bird from Iceland and a welcome addition to my life list.

Harlequin Duck

Heavy rain forced us to retreat to the comfort of the car and we decided to head up to Portsoy in search of Divers.
On arrival the rain was at last showing signs of easing off, but after parking up in the harbour we scanned the sea from the nearest clifftop without any sign of any White-billed Divers. We did find several Great Northern Divers and a nice raft of Long-tailed Ducks.
Moving to higher ground and after another two hour scan, Brian eventually found two of the three reported White-billed Divers.
On the return journey towards Fort William we again had views of  Black Grouse and shortly afterwards found a pair of Goldeneye on a small pool beside the road

Black Grouse


Monday, 6 April 2015

Scotland birding trip 2015

Day One: Thursday 2nd April

Another year and another short Scotland trip ahead of us.
An early morning flight out of Stansted into Glasgow, meant we wouldn't be wasting valuable birding time. Having collected the luggage and sorted out the hire car, we were on the road by 10am.
Premier Inn Hotel in Fort William was to be our base for the next three nights. With plenty of time to spare before we could book in we decided to head for Oban.
Not surprisingly Hooded Crow was the first addition to the year list. Much more of a surprise was the sight of a Golden Eagle drifting across a mountain top barely an hour after leaving Glasgow.
Oban produced more sightings of Hoodie's as well as a very confiding Rock Pipit several Eiders and at least three Black Guillemots.

After booking in and unloading the car, we headed back out and took a short tour of the Glen Nevis area. 

A brief stop at a fast flowing stream, delivered the goods with excellent views of Dipper.

The return journey towards Fort William produced sightings of three cock Black Grouse busily feeding in a roadside field. A Buzzard flew down and landed on a fence post close to the Grouse. One Grouse decided it was safer to fly up into a nearby tree, while the other two just carried on feeding.