Thursday, 29 December 2016

Blue Rock Thrush, Stow-on-the-Wold Gloucestershire

Blue Rock Thrush, escaped cage bird or genuine wild bird? After the accepted record of Chinese Pond Heron who can take the chance!
Leaving much later than normal, it wasn't surprising to hit a bit more traffic on route. Most of the traffic was around the town centre. We still made the 100 mile trip in good time, and after several trips around the car park we finally managed a parking space and headed off towards Fisher's Close.
As expected plenty of birders were already present, and the bird had been seen 10 minutes prior to our arrival.We decided to split up, Brian headed off along the surrounding roads, while I stayed with the masses in case it re-appeared.
An hour or so later Brian managed to re-locate the bird on a chimney in Maugersbury Park. I joined the masses and headed towards the cul-de-sac, but on arrival the bird had disappeared, Then suddenly it popped up on the roof of a neighbouring house. It stayed in this area for at least 30 minutes, flying from rooftops to chimney pots of the surrounding houses. 

The bird disappeared and so did the majority of the birders. As they headed back towards Fisher's Close, we decided to stay put and hope it returned, as luck would have it we were soon rewarded with cracking views as it foraged among the rooftop moss.
Escape or wild it was still well worth a trip to see the bird, and if it is deemed genuinely wild by the BBRC in the future, it was even more worth while!

Friday, 25 November 2016

Dipper. Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire

We made an early morning visit to Bassingbourn in Cambridgeshire today hoping to connect with the Dipper. It was first seen in late April of this year and has remained faithful to this site since. 
Having encountered isolated fog patches on route, we arrived shortly after first light to clear skies.
We managed to park the car close to the bridge running across Brook Road. From here it was a short walk from the car to the beginning of the stream. This was not your typical Dipper stream. There was no fast flowing water in sight, however the water in the stream became crystal clear the further downstream we went. Suddenly a flash of white on the far bank alerted us to the Dipper's presence. Having spent a couple of hours watching it feeding and preening, the calm was broken by a dog owner who decided to throw a stick into the water, the splash was quickly followed by two dogs! Seeing me further along the bank with camera in hand didn't stop him from throwing the stick in another couple of times!
At this point I gave up and headed for the car.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Birding Dungeness with Storm Angus

We drove along the M20 on route to Dungeness this morning not really knowing what sort of weather conditions we were heading into. Storm Angus was predicted to hit much of the East coast overnight and into the following morning.
We encountered very little in the way of storm damage on route, but you could feel the car being buffeted around by the strong winds and after parking up along the entrance track at Dungeness RSPB Reserve we couldn't even open the car doors, the winds were that strong.
Luckily we were parked up close enough to scan the pools by Boulderwall Farm. The drake Ring-necked Duck was found almost immediately as was the Cattle Egret. The Ring-necked Duck must have thought it was on the sea! 

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

Cattle Egret

We decided on a brief seawatch at the fishing boats, and soon found out just how strong the winds were. Forcing the car doors open we tried to make our way to one of the boats, but the winds were hitting us from every direction. It was impossible to walk in a straight line and you just had to walk in the direction the wind took you! While I hung on to my scope, Brian ran off along the beach front trying to recover his hat before it reached the sea. We tried to take shelter in front of one of the fishing boats, but the winds were whistling through the double hulled boat intensifying the strength of the winds! There wasn't much movement out to sea, with several flocks of Common Scoter along with Gannets, Great Crested Grebes, Kittiwakes and a couple of Red-throated Divers being the highlights! A couple of Turnstones and a single Sanderling were noted along the shoreline.
There were plenty of large gulls roosting on the shingle and a few scraps of food bought them in closer. Unfortunately there was no sign of anything rare today.

Before heading home a Buzzard was watched feeding on worms and perched up in nearby trees and fence posts and four Bewick's Swans were found among a group of Mute Swans.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Forster's Tern, Mistley Essex

Breaking news early this afternoon of the presence of a possible Forster's Tern at Mistley in Essex, The possible turned into a positive ID at 1.45pm.
A mad dash around the house duly followed and after meeting Brian around 2.30pm we set off up the A12. The race against the fading light began and luckily there were no hold ups on route. We reached the Quay to find only two other birders present. Both had seen the bird only minutes before we arrived, and told us that it had flown out towards the two green buoy's in the distance.
The car park quickly filled with cars and birders were soon lined up along the Quayside. I decided to train the scope on the area around the two green buoy's and the large boat between them, and I was rewarded when the 1st winter Forster's Tern suddenly appeared over the right-hand buoy heading straight towards us! A quick call to the gathered birders got them on it,  before it turned and flew low across the water's surface heading towards the two boats that were moored up. With the light fading fast this was to be the only views we had of the bird, but we stayed at the Quayside until the light had completely gone.

Today's individual is only the 2nd record for Essex, the first being in 1998 when another 1st winter frequented the West Mersea, Hamford Water and Tollesbury area's from the 16th November until the 24th April.  when it crossed the Essex/Suffolk border today it also became a first record for Suffolk! 

Another very welcome if an unexpected addition to the life list.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Norfolk Waxwings

A trip to Norfolk this morning in search of Waxwings, started with a 2 hour seawatch at Cley. Almost immediately a single Little Auk was seen flying low and fast heading West towards Blakeney. It would be the only one seen during the 2 hours. 
Long-tailed Ducks were seen and close scope views were had of a pair as they dropped down onto the water relatively close. Plenty of Red-throated Divers were seen flying East and and 2-3 sat on the sea close to the shore. Small numbers of Gannets were also seen along with five male Eiders providing another welcome year tick.
We left Cley and headed towards Burnham hoping to connect with some Waxwings. The reported birds around Burnham Overy Staithe failed to appear so we set about trying to find our own. Which we duly did when we reached Burnham Norton. Driving the back roads we came across a flock of 20+ birds perched on telegraph wires and nearby trees.
Light conditions were terrible, very grey overcast conditions with light rain mixed in, but that didn't stop us trying to get a photo.

A brief stop at Brancaster, with the usual Turnstones and Redshanks present. A single Grey Plover was also busily feeding on the exposed mud.

A stop at Ttichwell for coffee allowed a brief seawatch from the beach. Producing 3 Velvet Scoter among a flock of Common. Several Red-breasted Mergansers were also seen close by.
There was plenty of activity along the shoreline with Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Knot and Oystercatchers all present.

Before heading for home we took another drive to Burnham Norton, but the Waxwings had moved on to feed elsewhere. We did the same!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Isabelline & Desert Wheatear, Burnham Overy

The day after returning from twitching the first mainland record of Siberian Accentor at Easington in East Yorkshire, an Isabelline Wheatear was found just a couple of miles away near the Easington boatyard!
As luck would have it another Isabelline was found five days later at Burnham Overy in Norfolk. Being 90 miles nearer to home this looked much more appealing. Having left at 5.30am we arrived on site shortly before 8am. Taking the footpath towards the sea wall news broke that the Isabelline was still present 400m West of the boardwalk at Gun Hill. On route, we found a Northern Wheatear close to the seawall and took this as a good sign.Unfortunately, as we arrived the Isabelline had been lost to view! After joining the other birders in scanning the dunes and surrounding bushes the bird was soon found happily feeding among the short cropped grass.

Isabelline Wheatear

Having watched it for nearly an hour flying back and forth between the dunes and short grass it flew up the bank towards the horizon and was lost to view.
We took this as a sign to head on towards the Western end of Gun Hill in search of the Desert Wheatear, but as we were about to set off, a Radde's Warbler appeared at the top of the dunes. It sat out long enough to get the scope on it for dad to see his second lifer of the morning!
At the Western end we joined a small group of birders trying to locate the Desert Wheatear, it seemed to favour an old log at the bottom of the dunes, but would frequently fly up and investigate rabbit burrows. As we scanned the dunes and surrounding beach a second Wheatear appeared at the far Eastern edge of the dunes. Tail patterns and shape in flight confirming we had a Desert and an Isabelline! 

     A) Isabelline                   B) Northern                C) Desert   

Desert Wheatear

Before leaving for home we had a brief stop at Burnham Norton in search of two reported Waxwings. We met the finder in the car park. but the walk out to the sluice and subsequent search proved unsuccessful. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Ring-necked Duck: Wilstone Reservoir

An early morning visit to Wilstone Reservoir today hoping to connect with the Ring-necked Duck that was reported yesterday morning.
Arriving at first light we climbed the steps and headed towards the jetty, scanning each and every bird as we went. Several Grey Wagtails were seen feeding at the waters edge. But as we reached the jetty there was still no sign of the target bird. Two Water Rails emerged from the reedbed to the left of the jetty in Cemetery Corner and a Rock Pipit flew onto the concrete banking.
We were just about to head off and scan other areas of the reservoir when dad thought he had seen it. It had dived before a positive id could be had, But as it surfaced the id was confirmed!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Siberian Accentor, Easington: East Yorkshire

News broke on the 9th October that a Siberian Accentor had been found on Shetland! Fantastic bird but with no chance of getting to Shetland I didn't give it much thought thereafter.
That was until news broke that a second bird had been found, this time in Easington in East Yorkshire, The first chance to travel would be Sunday, so we were left with an anxious wait. The bird was still present throughout Saturday but the forecast for clear skies Saturday night were not what we were hoping for.
A 4am start and a 200 mile trip lay ahead of us, Worried the clear skies had encouraged the bird to move on we headed up the A1 less than confident. However we were a little more encouraged when we began encountering thick fog patches. 
Eight miles from Easington the pager bleeped into action with the news that the Siberian Accentor was indeed still present! Parking up in the field off Seaside Road, we headed off along Vicar's Lane to find a small crowd already watching the bird. It was busily picking insects from among the moss covered tarmac.

A superbly well managed twitch, full credit must go to to all those involved. Having watched the bird at close quarters for a decent amount of time the bird flew towards the gas works, and after adding to the donation bucket we headed off in search of any other migrants.
A Shore lark was found by the sandy beaches at the end of Easington Road and an elusive pallas's Warbler was eventually found in the trees in the Crown & Anchor pub flitting between branches on the East side. Before leaving for home a flock of Bean Geese were seen in fields North of Kilnsea Wetlands car park.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

A Wet Warbler day in Norfolk!

Heading towards Norfolk this morning we decided to start the day at Holkham and try our luck with the Radde's Warbler. As we headed along Lady Anne's Drive a small covey of six Grey Partridge were seen feeding close to the fence line on the right.
Shortly after leaving the car the first Yellow-browed Warbler was heard calling from a nearby pine tree. Taking the West path we made our way to the crosstracks, and what we thought was the area the Radde's had been seen in. As we scanned the area the rain fell and the first soaking of the day duly followed. We then discovered we had been scanning the wrong area! Two hours in two wrong locations, we eventually found the right area and were soon rewarded with a showy Yellow-browed Warbler that dropped into the brambles. Another downpour and another soaking followed but as the rain eased the Radde's started calling from within the same bramble bushes, it briefly appeared near the top, giving decent views through the bins but quickly took off and headed lower and deeper into thicker cover.
Heading towards Cromer, we made a brief stop at Walsey Hills and found a couple of Jack Snipe busily feeding along the back edge of the reeds.
A Dusky Warbler at Cromer was to be our final destination of the day. We parked up close to Cromer Golf Club and headed up to the lighthouse and down the bank on the other side to join  a small group of birders already present. The Dusky Warbler was heard almost immediately, The hard teck, teck call ringng out, then the rain came and the heaviest soaking of the day followed! Eventually the rain eased and the bird started calling again. Several flight views were had as it moved through the vegetation and then some decent views of the bird perched and flitting about among the branches followed. 

A decent if wet day with three additions to the year list, the Radde's Warbler also moving the life list up another notch.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Western Swamphen, Alkborough Flats

The first sighting of the Western Swamphen was at 2.05pm on Sunday 31st July on the Girder Pool at Minsmere. But the first opportunity to visit would be the following Sunday! Left hoping the bird would stay throughout the week it was still being reported at 8.40pm on Friday evening. I started to think there was a good chance it would stick around for our visit, Unfortunately there were no sightings on Saturday and not surprisingly we failed to connect on Sunday.
Almost a month later it would be reported at Alkborough Flats in Lincolnshire and with the bird still being reported yesterday Brian finally cracked and this morning we were on the road heading up the A1. Leaving at 4.30am it was an uneventful journey and we were on site and joining two Kent birders in the first hide around 7.30. we were still sitting there some five hours later having had no sighting of the Swamphen! 

Plenty of waders were present on the pool in front of us with Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Ruff, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwing, Snipe and Water Rail all present. Three Marsh harriers were seen hunting over the reedbeds along with a Kingfisher and a small party of Bearded Tits. The highlight for me being five Spoonbills that circled the area and then landed on the pool in front of us giving nice scope views.

With no reports of the bird all morning we decided to head back up the hill and scan the pools from a much higher vantage point along Sandpit Lane. Two birders were already present and joining them we began to scan the much smaller square pool directly behind the pool we had been watching and found the Swamphen  walking along the fringes of the reedbed.
Having put the word out to the bird services it was amusing to see the hide below empty at pace heading in our direction. Unfortunately the bird disappeared out of sight before they reached us and would not be seen again until some three hours later, by this time we were already well on our way home.
Will it make it onto the British List? The wait begins.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Osprey: Panshanger Park, Hertfordshire

Normally a trip to Scotland or a trip to the Birdfair at Rutland would guarantee an Osprey. Unfortunately neither of these trips have taken place this year, so with time running out to see one this year we took a trip to Panshanger Park, hoping it's three day stay would be prolonged by at least one more day. A short trip of 20 miles along the M25 getting off at junction 25 onto the A10 and along the A414 on to Thieves Lane. 

We visited each of the three lakes before returning to the Western end of Osprey Lake and took up a position on the small viewing platform.
We scanned the skies and all the trees bordering the lake without any sign of the bird. Then shortly after 10am an elderly lady pointed out what she thought was a Buzzard, high above the trees in the distance. Having managed to find it in the scope it soon became apparent that it was the Osprey. It circled round behind the trees only to re-emerge above the trees mobbed by a Buzzard! The Osprey drifted away to the East and was lost to view.
We were just thinking of making a move for home when the Osprey re-appeared. This time somewhat closer, it drifted close enough to get some nice views through the bins and I managed a couple of rather poor efforts with the camera after I remembered I actually had the camera with me!


Thursday, 1 September 2016

Pectoral Sandpiper, Blue House Farm EWT

Living in Essex, there are not that many of the better known nature reserves in the County I have not visited at some point in the past. Today was such a day, with a visit to Blue House Farm EWT. 

Some 34 miles from home, the reserve had been host to a Pectoral Sandpiper for the past three days. With plenty of road works on route and not leaving until midday the journey was quite slow.
We eventually reached the car park and set off across the permissive footpath. On route we were told that the bird was still showing from the 1st hide. As we entered the hide the Pec Sandpiper was busy feeding on the small island to the right of the hide.

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper and abundant insects to feed on

 We spent the next couple of hours in the hide with half a dozen other birders watching it feeding in the company of two Ruff. It seemed settled but would then take flight and head to a different part of the scrape without warning, but would then fly back across shortly afterwards. A single Green Sandpiper was found along with good numbers of Little Ringed Plovers and a single Yellow Wagtail dropped onto the small shingle island right in front of the hide.

Yellow Wagtail

 The journey home avoided all the road works and thus went much smoother and quicker. A new reserve visited and probably had my best views yet of a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Baird's Sandpiper: Reculver Lagoon, Kent

Heading to Reculver this morning hoping we didn't encounter any knock on effects from the M20 bridge collapse the previous day. Having left at 5am we arrived at the pay and display car park at Reculver Towers around 6.30. We headed up the slope passing the medieval church towers and started the mile or so walk along the sea wall towards the lagoon the Baird's Sandpiper had called home for the previous two days. 
The walk out produced good numbers of Ringed Plover and Sanderling among the shingle banks, along with smaller numbers of Turnstone and a single Wheatear. More of a surprise and a much over due year tick was the presence of a Whimbrel at the water's edge, three more were seen in flight as we headed for the lagoon.
The last reported sighting of the Baird's had been at 7.50pm the previous evening, with no news of the birds presence this morning we were left hoping the clear skies of the previous evening had not persuaded the bird to move on.
As we reached the lagoon the worries ended, as we found three birders already present and watching the Baird's as it fed among the stones at the waters edge. It was showing extremely well in the company of a Little Stint and two Dunlin, seemingly unconcerned by the constant stream of birders, joggers, dog walkers and cyclists during the 2-3 hours we were on site. 
My last sighting of a Baird's Sandpiper was at Holland haven on the 7th October 2010, that was a rather distant individual, In stark contrast today's bird was the complete opposite, showing down to a few feet.

Baird's Sandpiper (B Anderson)

Little Stint

We moved on to Dungeness and drove along Galloways to find good numbers of Whinchats and Wheatears present. We drew a blank finding any Wryneck and there were no reports of anyone else having better luck with this species in the area.
Best birds reported from the reserve were of a single Glossy Ibis on Hayfield 2 and Wood Sandpiper from Firth Hide along with a Garganey.
As we left for home a Kestrel was perched on a nearby fence post and on the opposite side of the road a Buzzard had the same idea although at a much greater distance from the road.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Seawatching at Dungeness and Bonaparte's Gull at Oare Marshes

An early morning sea watching session from the comfort of the hide at Dungeness produced three year ticks in the form of several Arctic Skua's, three Manx and two Balearic Shearwater. Also noted during a two hour session were large numbers of Gannet along with single figure counts of Common, Black and Sandwich Terns plus Common Scoter, Great Crested Grebe and Fulmar.
Moving on to Oare Marshes we found the water levels on the East Flood to be the best they have been for quite a while, and we soon located six Curlew Sandpiper for another year tick. Two Little Stints were also seen plus large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks. Among these large flocks were 20+ Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Lapwings 4 Knot and single Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Turnstone, Kingfisher and Water Rail.
As the water levels rose on the creek, the gulls started dropping in on the flood, and eventually the Bonaparte's Gull was found among them. 

Now minus almost all of it's summer plumage Black hood it proved difficult to pick out among the large flocks of Black headed Gulls and difficult light conditions.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

White Stork, Beddington Farmlands

A White Stork first reported at Beddington Farmlands in London on the 22nd July, was still being reported intermittently throughout the week and again yesterday. 
So we decided it was about time we paid the site a visit. Setting off at 4.30 this morning for a  relatively short trip of 30 miles. It's a site I have never visited before, and with no access to the site unless you happen to be a keyholder, I wasn't even sure how much of the site would be visible through the fence from the public footpath.
Parking up in a designated parking bay along London Road, we headed off along the footpath off Mile Road and crossed the railway bridge. The fence surrounding the main site and lakes was right in front of us, and we were surprised by how much of the main lake you could actually see from this viewpoint.
A quick scan of the shingle islands produced several roosting Grey Herons and at the left hand edge of the main lake stood the White Stork.

Not looking forward to sitting for hours in London rush hour traffic, we decided to head in the opposite direction and go searching for the Bonaparte's Gull at Oare Marshes.
Upon arrival there were large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Golden Plovers and smaller numbers of Dunlin and Ruff along with at least three Green Sandpipers feeding along the edges of East Flood But there was no sign of the Bonaparte's.
We decided to head down to the boating ramp and give the creek a scan. Scanning through the Numerous Black-Headed Gulls the Bonaparte's suddenly appeared in the scope!

An enjoyable morning's birding.