Saturday, 23 April 2016

Nightingales, Lee Valley

An early morning visit to Lee Valley started with a stroll around Cornmill Meadows. Plenty of Sedge Warblers singing as I walked towards Wake hide.

A circular walk only produced a single Common Whitethroat of note, but as I headed towards the top corner I heard the distinctive sound of a Grasshopper Warbler "reeling". Edging closer I managed to get within a few feet of the bush it was singing from, but although it sang constantly for more than 30 minutes I only caught a brief glimpse of the bird.
I moved on to Fisher's Green in search of Nightingales, and it wasn't long before I heard one blasting out it's song. Creeping forward I eventually managed to locate the bird and had great views as it sang it's heart out.


A search of the scrub area between the canal and the river was rewarded with views of Common Whitethroat and at least three Lesser Whitethroats.  Three Bullfinch, Willow Warbler and several Chiffchaffs were all added to the days list before leaving for home.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Brecks

We started the day searching for Stone-Curlews and were met with our first calling Cuckoo as we parked up. Soon afterwards the first Stone-Curlews were found, at first a single bird then two and then a third bird joined them. In all six were seen during an hour long visit along with two Wheatear, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Woodlark.

Lakenheath was alive with Sedge Warblers, but there was no sight or sound of the sought after Grasshopper Warbler. As we approached the Joist Fen viewpoint Bearded Tits began "pinging" but remained elusive. Several Marsh Harriers were seen hunting over the reedbeds. A single Crane was seen as it made a brief flight before dropping back down among the reeds. Two Bitterns were seen in flight and a Cuckoo flew straight across the viewpoint. A Water Rail emerged from the edge of the reeds and was gone as quickly as it had appeared. 
A Grasshopper Warbler had recently been heard "reeling" not far from Mere Hide by a couple that had just arrived at the viewpoint, so we headed back in that direction. Shortly after reaching the area, sure enough the distinctive sound of a Grasshopper Warbler was heard.

Year List now stands at 198


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Bluethroat and Subalpine Warbler at Portland!

A 5am start this morning and just the One hundred and seventy miles ahead of us. Having made good time we arrived at Portland bird observatory around 7.30.
Sitting on the wooden bench in the garden we watched two Short-eared Owls come in off the sea and head directly overhead, before pitching down in the nearby fields a short distance away.
The scrub and fields outside the observatory were alive with Willow Warblers Chiffchaffs, Linnets and a Little Owl was perched up on a rock a short distance away.

While heading down the track hoping to find the Western Subalpine Warbler another birder told us he thought he had seen it a few minutes ago heading into some thick scrub near the cliff edge. We waited close to the cliff face and scanned the scrub for any movement, and within a few minutes the bird appeared. My first lifer of 2016!

Western Subalpine Warbler

We headed off up the hill in search of the Hoopoe, and found two more Short-eared Owls perched up in nearby scrub plus numerous Redstarts were feeding in the surrounding fields.
The search for the Hoopoe was cut short when news came through that the White-spotted Bluethroat had been seen in the same privet hedge as the previous evening. We headed back down and joined the thirty or so other birders already present. Scanning the hedges and surrounding fields produced more Redstarts Willow Warblers and several Wheatears and then there was the Bluethroat! It would prove to be very elusive in the 2-3 hours we were there, but it did show briefly on several occasions and on one occasion to within a few feet. Showing the ring that had been put on it the previous evening.

White-spotted Bluethroat

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Ring Ouzel at KGV Reservoir, Chingford

Two recent trips to Blows Down in Bedfordshire and Wanstead Flats in London had both failed to locate any Ring Ouzels.
This morning another Ring Ouzel was found at KGV Reservoir in Chingford. Parking up in the car park,   uncertain of which area the Ring Ouzel had been found in we headed round the South end of South basin, two Little Ringed Plover were seen flying from the near bank and three Wheatear were found in the grass banks as we approached the causeway.

I headed off around the West side of North basin, only to be told that the Ring Ouzel that had been quite happily feeding below the grass bank along the fence line had been flushed by two guys in a land rover, who had parked on the grass bank right where the Ring Ouzel had been feeding! Having scanned the sheep fields and surrounding area I failed to re-locate the bird.
The walk back produced several more Wheatear, a white Wagtail and a year tick in the form of a Willow Warbler. 
Heading for home a phone call from Neville Smith saying he had re-found the Ring Ouzel saw us turn round and head for the back of the sheep fields.
Shortly before arriving a short shower had pushed the bird into cover and was not visible when we arrived. Scanning the area a bird flew from a near by tree and landed at the bottom of the grass slope, and bingo! Ring Ouzel added to the year list.
Thanks to Neville for sending the below photo's!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Another rewarding visit to Dungeness!

A short early morning sea-watch from the relative comfort of the beach hide produced large numbers of Sandwich Terns along with smaller numbers of Common Terns. Also seen during this time were large numbers of Brent Geese and Common Scoter plus single figure Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Diver, Shelduck and Shoveler.
A pair of Wheatear were found on the shingle near the boats before we moved on to the reserve and found our first Sedge Warblers of the year. A Cetti's Warbler showed well while we were searching for the Sedge Warblers. A single House Martin was an unexpected bonus.

Cetti's Warbler

A drive along Galloways failed to produce any Whinchat, but plenty of Stonechat, Linnet and Meadow Pipits were on show among the bramble and gorse.

Before heading for home we stopped off at Elmley NNR and watched several Marsh Harrier and Buzzard hunting along the entrance track. 

We scanned the fields either side of the entrance track for Yellow Wagtails on the way up, but failed to see any, but on the return drive dad managed to find a single bird on a grass ridge.

Five year ticks added today and another enjoyable day's birding.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Purple Heron at Wat Tyler CP

A 4-5 hour visit to Wat Tyler CP yesterday failed to produce any sighting of the Purple Heron. So a second visit was made today. We arrived shortly before 1.30pm having had positive news on route of the bird dropping into the reedbed. Several Grey Heron were seen flying across the lake along with Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher,Water Rail several Bearded Tits and a Sparrowhawk.
An hour after entering the hide the Purple Heron took to the air, flew behind the far hedge line and circled back round to drop back into the reeds. 

That was the only views we had of the bird, luckily Brian was in the right corner of the hide to grab the above shots before it was lost to view among the reeds.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Minsmere, Dunwich Heath & Landguard

A productive day in Suffolk, started with an early morning visit to Minsmere. Good numbers of Sand Martin were present at the sand bank where they were busily excavating last years nest holes and creating new ones. Looking out across the scrape from North hide the drake Garganey was soon located and dad managed to locate a single Jack Snipe. A small herd of Red Deer were watched from the North wall before we headed for the East hide hoping to find the Iceland Gull among the numerous gulls present. After a lengthy scan all we could manage to find was a single Caspian Gull and several Med Gulls.

Sand Martin (B Anderson)

A short distance from Minsmere is Dunwich Heath and this was our next stop. A walk out along one of the many paths soon located two Dartford Warblers and a single Woodlark was an added bonus!

We dropped in at Landguard where we found a pair of Black Redstart and several very smart male Wheatear around the Ranger's Cottage and surrounding area.

Wheatear (B Anderson)