Monday, 14 August 2017

Long-billed Dowithcher: Oare Marshes, Kent

Early morning call from Brian and we are on route to Oare Marshes. Having parked up in the car park by the causeway we walked back along the entrance track to scan the East Flood. A beautiful morning weather wise, but as is normal here viewing conditions were not good from the West. We scanned along the margins and managed to locate a couple of Curlew Sandpipers feeding among a group of Dunlin. 
With no sign of the Dowitcher, we headed for the East side, stopping several times to scan for any sign of the Bonaparte's Gull, finding it quickly among Whimbrel, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwits and numerous Black-headed Gulls. Now without the black hood, it had on a previous visit two weeks ago.

We continued around the seawall and joined the two other birders on the East side of the Flood, who told us that the Dowitcher had disappeared into the reeds. After a brief wait, we were soon getting superb scope views of the Dowitcher. It began feeding along the edge of the reeds in the company of several Lapwing, Godwits and a single Snipe. 

After watching it feed for 15-20 minutes it then took flight and landed at the end of the reeds among a flock of Godwits, Lapwings, Ruff, Dunlin, Redshank and another pair of Curlew Sandpipers.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Bonaparte's Gull: Oare Marshes, Kent

Another trip this morning to Oare Marshes. Arriving shortly after 6am we parked up along the entrance road and began scanning  East Flood. Looking East directly into the sun made viewing difficult. There was no sign of the Bonaparte's, but a group of nine adult Curlew Sandpiper were found feeding among a small group of Dunlin for a welcome year tick. A sizable flock of Black-tailed Godwits were present with good numbers of Avocets as well as several Ruff and at least three Snipe and a single Spotted Redshank.
It was low tide so we moved on to the causeway and began scanning the foreshore for the Bonaparte's Gull and found it midway between the slipway and the hide.

Along with the Bonaparte's Gull, there were three Whimbrel and several more Black-tailed Godwits also feeding on the mud.

East Flood from the entrance track

With news that the Marsh Sandpiper at Cliffe had relocated to Radar Pool, we made a brief visit on the way home. Unfortunately, the Marsh Sandpiper had been flushed by a Peregrine sometime earlier and didn't show during our visit. We weren't too disappointed as we had already seen the bird the previous week. Large numbers of Greenshank were present as well as two Common Sandpipers.
Leaving Cliffe and heading towards the M2, we came across a massive flock of hirundines, numbering over a thousand birds. Not a bad ending to a very enjoyable mornings birding.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Manx Shearwater: KGV Reservoir, Chingford

A Manx Shearwater reported on the King George Reservoir yesterday was very unexpected. Thinking it would have moved on overnight and that I had missed my chance, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that it was still present this morning.
Heading up the ramp I joined a couple of birders who confirmed that the Manx was still on site. A quick scan with the scope and the bird is found. It remained distant in the North West corner of the South basin during my visit. With the wind picking up the bird would appear and disappear among the waves. 

Mainly just drifting among the waves I was treated to a couple of wing flaps and a nice flight view as it moved away from the causeway heading back towards the buoy.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Vagrant Emperor: Minsmere RSPB

While dipping the Roseate Tern at Minsmere this morning, we came across this Dragonfly very close to the footpath soon after leaving the South Hide while heading towards the sluice. After returning home I checked several online sites for an ID. Unable to confirm the species I posted the photo below on Twitter asking for help. The replies all seemed to confirm it to be a Vagrant Emperor! 

Vagrant Emperor
The photo was taken at 9.41 this morning and I have included two maps below of the reserve and the area where I took the photograph using my iphone.

PS: I was asked to submit the sighting to the  "British Dragonfly Society Migrant Dragonfly Project & Suffolk Dragonfly Recorder" Adrian Parr.

Below is the reply I received from Adrian.

Hi James,
Many thanks indeed for the photo and information. Yes, this is a female Vagrant Emperor - congratulations on the find! Nationally, there were several individuals of this rare migrant seen back in the early spring, but things then went quiet for a while. The last few days have however clearly seen a further small influx (in addition to your sighting, a male was reported from north Yorkshire a few days ago). It's interesting how the most recent arrivals of this primarily Afro-tropical species have been at a time of relatively nondescript weather.
Thanks again for everything, and all best wishes. Have a good summer.
A.J. Parr
(British Dragonfly Society Migrant Dragonfly Project & Suffolk Dragonfly Recorder)

PPS: The Vagrant Emperor reported today on Birdguides.

Insect News: Suffolk, a female Vagrant Emperor dragonfly at Minsmere RSPB yesterday

Dipping the Roseate Tern at Minsmere

Arriving at Minsmere early this morning, we made our way to the Public Hide and began scanning the South Scrape for any sign of yesterday's Roseate Tern. Unfortunately, after several scans of the whole scrape, there was no sign of the bird's presence. There was, however, plenty of other birds around. Little Gulls were resting up on the scrape, The highest total I managed was 22. A single Little Tern was also found among the Little Gulls. Common Terns were numerous and busily flying back and forth between the scrape and sea feeding youngsters. Med Gulls seem to have had a good breeding year here as well, with several pairs feeding young. 3 Kittiwake were resting on the scrape along with large numbers of Sandwich Terns.
Several waders were noted including Common and Green Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank and Avocet.

Swallows were present around the sluice allowing for a few photos.

Although we dipped the Roseate Tern (Thankfully this does not happen very often to us) we still had a very enjoyable day. With the added bonus of finding a Vagrant Emperor Dragonfly, Even though we didn't know it at the time!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Marsh Sandpiper at Cliffe Pools, Kent

A Marsh Sandpiper had been reported at Cliffe Pools in Kent late on Wednesday evening, and with several positive reports today, we decided to make the trip.
Brian having taken his wife's 4x4 decided to drive the track down past the Black Barn towards the second viewing mound. The track is very uneven and deeply pot-holed in places but with care can be driven along. If not you can park in the Salt Lane car park and walk to the viewing mound. A walk of maybe 30-40 minutes.

The Marsh Sandpiper remained distant throughout our visit, preferring the back edge of Black Barn Pool 4. Viewing was made more difficult with the heat haze, but once the sun disappeared behind clouds the viewing improved allowing some nice scope views of the bird. It would feed along the back edge of the pool but favoured the far corner and would disappear out of view frequently. As well as the Marsh sandpiper the Black-winged Stilt adults and youngsters were showing superbly. A Barn Owl hunting the rough grassland in front of us was a nice ending to the evening.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Bonaparte's Gull, Oare Marshes NR

Saturday evening, a full moon, it seemed perfect for a visit to The Brecks searching for Nightjars!  We waited in our chosen spot and as the light faded and the moon appeared the first "churring" Nightjar was heard. As the churring stopped the first views of a wing-clapping and calling bird appeared close by. This was to be the pattern for the remainder of the evening. Several birds would start churring from nearby trees, then silence, soon to be followed by the presence close by of a calling bird in flight. Along with the Nightjars several Tawny Owls were also very vocal.

After a couple of hours sleep, it's another early morning outing. This time to Oare Marshes NR hoping to connect with the returning Bonaparte's Gull. we parked up along the road and scanned the East Flood for the Bonaparte's. 

View across East Flood from the road.

There's no sign and with the tide out on the Swale it's more likely to be feeding out on the mud until high tide. Before heading towards the slipway, we are distracted by the sound of a Turtle Dove "purring". It's soon found sitting on top of a telegraph pole. Another bird is also heard calling a short distance away.
After several scans for the Bonaparte's from the slipway, we are told by another birder that the bird is feeding on the mud further West and closer towards the hide. Another scan and the Bonaparte's is quickly found among the Black-headed Gulls. Below is the record shot I managed to grab by holding the phone to the scope.

Feeding out on the mud of The Swale

Luckily Brian had his camera ready when the bird took flight and headed for East Flood. Grabbing the image below as it crossed the sea wall.

Returning for it's fifth year at Oare Marshes and arriving back yesterday on exactly the same date as last year! The first sighting of presumably the same individual was back in June of 2013. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Bee-eaters in East Leake Quarry, Notts

With a more favourable weather forecast today, we decided to head North and take a look at the Bee-eaters that had been present since the 25th June.
Heading along the A6006 we soon spotted the roadside sign directing us to the temporary car park set up in a field close to the site. (£5 per car of which half goes to the RSPB and half to the local farmer.) Without the temporary car park, I would imagine this would be a very difficult area to park near. It's a busy road so take care when crossing it as cars seem very reluctant to slow down.

Hard to miss the car park!
Crossing the road from the car park we stopped at the first gate and got distant views of one of the Bee-eaters perched up in the large Ash tree. Walking on we went through the second gate and around the first pit and joined the growing number of birders/photographers already present. I would say there was an 80% - 20% ratio in favour of cameras to scopes. 

Just some of the many birders/photographers present

The Bee-eaters were very active and constantly flying from the Ash tree to catch various insects. Bees, dragonflies and moths were all taken, with an almost 100% success rate. During our four hour visit, I managed to see six of the reported seven birds. 

Below is a very brief thirty-second video of one of the Bee-eaters.

This was a well-organised event with a real mix of people present, from birders to photographers to curious locals. I shared my scope with a couple of locals who had seen the Bee-eater sign the previous evening and come down to see them. It was also great to see so many youngsters present during the morning.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Turtle Dove, Titchwell

An early morning trip to Titchwell was rewarded with an empty car park and superb views of a single Turtle Dove. Frequently heard "purring" it was quickly located perched up in a nearby tree.

It would spend its time either perched up and calling from the trees or picking grit from the car park gravel. Allowing us to stay in the car and take a few photos without any disturbance to the bird.

On the reserve itself, we headed along the main path and found the majority of Thornham Marsh covered with water from the high tide. 

Thornham Marsh

A scan of Freshwater Marsh produced a welcome year tick when a single Spotted Redshank dropped in. Three 1st summer Little Gulls were feeding close to the islands and four Spoonbills were soon joined by another two individuals. A small flock of Knot were also present along with Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Avocets and single Ruff and Little Ringed Plover. 

4 of the 6 Spoonbill present on the Freshwater Marsh

One actually awake!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Elegant Tern, Church Norton

On the 7th June a colour ringed Elegant Tern was reported at Hayling Island in Hampshire, it flew off around 11.30am. Only to be re-found early evening on the 9th at Sandy Point. On the 10th it relocated to the harbour at Church Norton. This individual is reportedly the same bird that regularly spends each summer at Banc d'Arguin, Gironde in France, It's been DNA tested in France and proven to be a pure Elegant Tern. 

Brian had planned to make the trip Saturday afternoon but severe back pain ended that idea, So it was a nervous wait hoping it would stick around until Sunday and that Brian's back pain would ease enough to make the journey possible.
With the bird still being reported among the tern colony at 9.20 Saturday evening, we set off at 5am hoping for news on route. Shortly after 6am news breaks that the bird was still present. Taking a chance we drive down to the church and find a parking space right next to the footpath. Shortly after 7am we're Heading down the footpath to join around thirty other birders already on site. The bird is not showing but we're told it's among the tern colony in the long grass. Following the directions of other birders (pink house, find the basketball net on the wall, come down directly in front of that to the tern island and that's where the bird went  down)
With the scope trained on that area, soon the shout goes up that the bird is in the air. It proves surprisingly easy to pick out among the other terns and gulls. It shows well in the scope flying around the island and along the electric fence line for some 10-15 minutes and then drops back down on the island in exactly the same place as before. This would be the pattern for the next hour until it suddenly flew out to sea and would not return to the harbour until mid-morning. 

Elegant Tern

Large numbers of Med Gulls were present on the banks in front of the fenced area and a flock of 25-30 Little Terns were seen and several of these dropped in to fish in the harbour. Among the many Black-headed Gulls I managed to pick out a single Little Gull feeding among the muddy margins for another year tick. A more unusual sight was a pair of Peregrine sitting among the short grass a short distance from the tern colony close to a group of Cormorants. By the time we left the thirty or so birders present on arrival had grown in size to nearer 300! 

Some of the assembled birders.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Honey Buzzards and Goshawks: New Forest

With good numbers of Honey Buzzards being reported in recent days, This morning we headed for the New Forest in the hope that we might connect with any displaying birds and any other raptors.
Having parked up in Acres Down car park we headed off up the track and joined two locals already on site. 

It wasn't long before the first raptors appeared. First up was a Common Buzzard swiftly followed by a Goshawk. The Goshawk allowing super views as it circled above the treeline for several minutes.
By mid morning more Common Buzzards were seen, and then a Honey Buzzard appeared just above the pines. It started to drift across the tops of the pines until a Goshawk came up and started mobbing it. Eventually the Goshawk lost interest and the Honey Buzzard flew in and out of the clouds. I managed to stay on it and was rewarded with several wing-clapping display flights!

The view from the view-point
Before we headed back down the track towards the car Brian picked up a a Peregrine flying towards us. It flew directly overhead and was a good ending to the session.
Still needing Redstart for the year we headed off along one of the tracks hoping to connect. Taking one of the side tracks we heard the distinctive sound of a Wood Warbler and with a bit of Patience managed some nice views as it sang from the treetops. No Redstarts had been seen on the walk out, but our luck changed on the walk back. Firstly a female Redstart was picked up and then the beautiful male close by. A second pair and another male were also seen before reaching the car.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

The invisible Corncrake: Alvecote Pools, Warks

Leaving home at 3.15am this morning the journey along the M25 and up the M1 was going smoothly until we found that junction 11-12 at Dunstable was completely closed! Following the diversions added another 40 minutes to the journey, eventually arriving in Tamworth around 6am. Having parked up in Polesworth Road we joined three other birders already present and were told the Corncrake had been heard calling frequently. We didn't have to wait very long before it called again. During the next two hours the bird would utter it's crex-crex call every 4-5 minutes, it followed this routine closely enough to know when it was going to start calling again!
However trying to locate the actual area the bird was calling from proved much more difficult.

The viewing gate at junction of Polesworth Road & Linden Lane

On route to Rutland Water we made a short detour to Kelham Bridge hoping to add Willow Tit to the year list. Unfortunaely the feeders were devoid of seed and with so much natural food available at this time of year they didn't show or call during this visit.

With limited time remaining we made the thirty five mile journey East to Manton Bay. Pulling into the layby off the A6003 we managed to get some very nice scope views of the Osprey. The female sitting on the nest along with two visible chicks and the male perched close by. The male soon took to the air and returned a short time later with a newly caught fish and dropped it into the nest.

The Manton Bay Ospreys

I grabbed a hand held phone record shot through the scope before we started the two hour return trip home.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Marsh Warbler, RSPB Lakenheath Fen

An early morning visit to Lakenheath this morning began with a walk out along the river bank following the River Little Ouse heading towards Joist Fen Viewpoint. A further 300m past the last gate we join the only other birder present and quickly pick up the Marsh Warbler singing close by within the reeds. During our two hour session it sang almost constantly and would work it's way up from the bottom of the reeds and perch right at the top allowing for stunning views. 

Below is a short  video clip taken through the scope.

Several fly over Cuckoo's and Bitterns were seen from Joist Fen and New Fen viewpoints as well as Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits, Kingfisher, Hobby, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard.

Marsh Warbler showing well in first cut of reeds left of the first bush in photo

Below photo taken through the scope, appears to show a tick below the eye near the gape.

Marsh Warbler

As we approached the track for Mere Hide a Grasshopper Warbler began reeling to give Brian another year tick.  It proved far more elusive than the Marsh Warbler, remaining well hidden among the branches of a small tree a short distance from the track.

View from New Fen Viewpoint

Leaving Lakenheath we made the short five mile trip to Brandon and after parking up along the narrow track of Gas House Drove we headed along the footpath and into the woods. Immediately the Wood Warbler could be heard singing. Soon afterwards the bird appeared among the Oaks and Silver Birches giving superb views and it belted out it's familiar song.

Monday, 15 May 2017

RSPB Titchwell, Norfolk

The weather forecast for today was for light rain turning heavier and then clearing towards late morning. This proved to be spot on. 
Before heading for Titchwell we made a brief stop at Choseley so Brian could hopefully grab some views of Dotterel. As we arrived heavy rain began to fall so we parked up near the barns and waited for the rain to ease. Red-Legged and Grey partridge along with Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer in the nearby fields were a nice distraction and soon the rain began to ease. A scan of the field South of the drying barns and Brian soon had the Dotterel in the scope. I wasn't as keen to get a soaking, having already seen Dotterel on a recent trip to Herts but couldn't resist a brief view before we moved on to Titchwell.
A scan of the freshmarsh from Island Hide and then Parrinder Hide produced good views of Common, Sandwich and Little Terns along with Sanderling, Little Stint, Ringed and Little-ringed Plovers.

A brief stop at the picnic tables was rewarded with views of a Spotted Flycatcher in the surrounding Oak trees. While watching the Spotted Flycatcher the soft "purring" of a Turtle Dove could be heard. After heading back to the car park the Turtle Dove was soon found perched high up on a bare tree giving superb views.

A short detour on the way home to Fen Drayton Lakes in Cambridgeshire failed to produce any sightings of the Red-footed falcon during a two hour visit but several Hobby were showing well.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Kittiwake & Arctic Tern: King George V Reservoir

A very brief visit to KGV Reservoir this evening produced nice views of a couple of Arctic Terns. Firstly found flying low along the Western edge of the South basin and then resting on one of the small boats. I managed a couple of record shots through the scope.

Three Common Sandpipers were seen flying low across the South Basin heading towards the causeway and large numbers of Sand Martin, Swallows and Swifts were seen.

I also managed an earlier visit on the 29th April hoping the Kittiwake had stayed overnight. Luckily it had. First seen drifting along the Southern edge of the South basin, it then took flight and headed West over the River Lee Navigation channel only to reappear a short time later when it landed on a buoy and promptly went to sleep.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Kentish Plover: Pitstone Quarry

A trip to Abberton Reservoir yesterday proved very frustrating. It Started well enough with views of Black Tern flying over the Reservoir from Lodge Lane viewpoint on arrival. But the Bonaparte's Gull failed to show despite scans from several locations and it was the same outcome when I failed to find any Arctic Terns among the numerous Common Terns. 
The mistake of the day was when news broke of the continued presence of the Kentish Plover at The Naze. We foolishly decided to drive the extra thirty miles for it. On arrival, we were told it was an hour's walk to the area and that if not back by 3pm you could get cut off by the incoming tide. Luckily we spoke to a couple of birders who had just returned and were told the report of the bird's presence had been erroneous and that there had been no sightings all day!

Monday 1st May

Breakfast this morning was interrupted by news of another Kentish Plover sighting. This time at Pitstone Quarry on the Herts, Bucks border. Forty miles from home, it wasn't long before we were on route. Upon arrival, we managed to find a parking space opposite the entrance to the woodland path and had soon joined the assembled birders. A quick scan of the area and the Kentish Plover is located.

Pitstone Quarry

While we were present it spent most of its time feeding among the sandy soil in between the pools and would occasionally be chased by a Little Ringed Plover. Although it was still present when we left a couple of hours later, it didn't hang around much longer and was seen flying off shortly before mid-day. 

A very rewarding trip after yesterday's frustrations.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Dotterel Therfield, Hertfordshire

An early afternoon report of four Dotterel present in a bare field at Therfield in Hertfordshire had to be worth a visit. A thirty-five mile drive up the A10 encountering sun, rain and a hail storm on route before we could start searching for the bare field between Therfield and Reed End. Luckily another birder had put out a grid reference to the location, which proved a huge help in finding the field. Parking up at the junction of Mill Lane we headed up along the dirt track and found a handful of birders already on site.

Reaching the corner of the field all four Dotterel could be seen feeding in the far bottom corner. Two very smart looking females and two males. They fed along the ridge and would drop down and disappear from time to time before reappearing.

The adjoining fields also held good numbers of Yellowhammer and several Grey Partridge were seen nearby and in fields bordering Haywood Lane. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Minsmere alive with Warblers

Having arrived at Minsmere later than expected due to the A12 closure, we headed off towards Island Mere hide. The reedbed was alive with the sound of "pinging" Bearded Tits, and it wasn't long before several birds were seen. Sedge and Reed Warblers were also very vocal with both species showing extremely well among the reeds either side of the hide. The real target though was the Savi's warbler that had first been reported on the 19th. We managed to hear several short bursts of song during our visit but views of the bird proved much more difficult. 

Savi's Warbler (taken in 2014)

The scrub areas around the hide and Adder trail were alive with several species of Warbler including Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, and Cetti's Warbler. Bitterns were "Booming" close by and we could still hear the Savi's singing in the background. A Common Buzzard was joined by a Sprawk giving close views as they drifted across the blue skies and a Weasel made a brief appearance as it crossed the footpath in front of us. We failed to find the Stone Curlew in the fields from North Wall but did locate a couple of Wheatear in the same area.

We moved on the Boyton Marshes where I failed to see the two Cranes that flew over in the far distance. Eight Whimbrel feeding in a nearby field were much more obvious and a welcome year tick.

From here it was a short drive to Hollesley Marshes. A prolonged scan of the grazing marshes and scrape areas finally produced the hoped for Wood Sandpiper. Good numbers of Ruff and Snipe and a single Common Sandpiper were all present on the scrape along with the usual wildfowl. Before leaving another Whimbrel dropped in on the Grazing marsh along with several Yellow Wagtails.

Another good days birding adding four more year ticks and going past the 200 this year.