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 re-located 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 longer 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 birds 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 it's 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 along 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.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Lee Valley. First Nightingale returns

I made a brief visit to Fishers Green early Saturday morning. Walking across the bridge towards the sub station gate I heard a very short burst of Nightingale song. I waited for it to erupt into full song but it never happened. Continuing past the sub station and crossing the Bailey bridge I began searching the scrub area. Low temperatures and windy conditions didn't help with finding any new arrivals. Thirty minutes of searching had only produced a pair of Blackcap and several Chiffchaff. As I was thinking of moving on the distinctive "reeling" of a Grasshopper Warbler started up. It sang for the next twenty minutes but always from deep cover.
I took the same route back towards the car and was rewarded with a Nightingale now in full song. Photo below is from a previous visit.


Sunday 16th April

This morning I made another brief visit, this time to KGV Reservoir in Chingford. After negotiating the dodgy padlock on the gate (falls apart after you turn the key) we made our way up the slope and began scanning the South basin. Very little was found on the water but on the jetty by the boat hut we found two Common Sandpipers, and a Grey Wagtail. 

Common Sandpiper

A complete circuit of the South basin added my first Common Whitethroat of the year along with several Linnets and a cracking pair of Wheatears were found on the West side on the return walk.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Ring Ouzels on Mersea Island

Shortly after passing the gate at Landguard early this morning, we had a very brief view of a possible female Ring Ouzel. The call was right and a very brief view of the bird on the ground seemed to show silver in the wings. Unfortunately it took flight almost immediately after landing and headed towards the area around the ranger's cottage. Several searches failed to produce any sightings among the numerous Blackbirds found. The concrete blocks and short cut grass were alive with Wheatears, with at least twelve seen. We again failed to locate the Black Redstart, but picked out a single Little Ringed Plover among the Ringed Plovers.

From here we headed back into Essex with a visit to Mersea Island. Parking up at the far end of East Mersea Road, we took the footpath to the sea wall and continued walking until we came to the second paddock. We scanned the paddock but failed to find any Ring Ouzels, however another Wheatear was found and close by was a stunning male Yellow Wagtail. Then both male Ring Ouzels flew from a nearby Hawthorn bush and began feeding within the paddock. 

They would follow this pattern throughout our three hour stay. Flying up into the Hawthorn bushes and then dropping back down to feed shortly afterwards. Before leaving my first Swallow of the year was seen hawking low over the grass within the paddock.

A brief visit to Abberton on the way home added another Little Ringed Plover along with a distant Scaup but we failed to locate the Velvet Scoter.

Abberton Reservoir

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Breckland Birding at Cavenham Heath

We started the day searching for the White Stork in Sudbury. But after an hour of scanning the paddocks and surrounding areas of Sackers Green we failed to find the bird.
From here we spent the rest of the morning at Cavenham Heath. After negotiating the deeply potholed sandy track we quickly picked out two Stone-Curlews on the heath. Skylarks were very evident as were several Woodlarks. A walk out onto the heath provided close views of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.

Willow Warbler

Woodlarks were singing from trees and giving their "parachuting" display flights. A Cuckoo gave a single call in the distance and was eventually located in a Beech tree. 


Cuckoo (B Anderson)

On the drive out a pair of Grey Partridge were spotted feeding among the short grass. With gunshots heard in the distance they were rightly cautious.

Grey Partridge


Final stop of the day would be to Santon Downham, where we heard a pair of Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers calling. But again failed to get any views of the birds. Nuthatches were very vocal and Brambling, Redpoll and Siskin all showed well in scrub bordering the river.
Woodlarks were again seen here, with several birds displaying from trees and the ground.


Saturday, 8 April 2017

Black-winged Stilts, Vange Marsh

I've already had two opportunities to see Black-winged Stilts this year, firstly a pair at Bowers Marsh on the 30th March and then a single bird at Vange Marsh on the 1st April. So when news broke of four birds present at Vange again this morning it was an opportunity too good to miss. 
A quick trip along the A13 and forty minutes later we are parked up and crossing the railway tracks and heading towards the marsh. There was only a handful of birders present on arrival but importantly two of the Black-winged Stilts were showing extremely well in front of the North bank.

The second pair were later located in the far North Western corner. Several Common Snipe were present along with a single Jack Snipe. The Common Snipe were much more active than the Jack Snipe, but when a pair of Coot came crashing through the reeds the Jack Snipe jumped up and gave great views as it began it's "bouncing" action while feeding.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Long-eared Owl still showing at Dungeness

Dungenesss beach early this morning was covered in a thick blanket of fog, visibility was very poor and the new lighthouse was blasting out it's warning to passing ships.
As the sun came up, the fog cleared and my first Wheater of the year appeared among the shingle and on the concrete blocks this was quickly followed by two more. A brief seawatch from the hide in very calm conditions produced very little movement, I did however manage to add Sandwich Tern and a newly arrived Common Tern to the year list.
A brief search around the observatory and surrounding area failed to provide any Black Redstart sightings but we had good views of a pair of Raven over the far end of the power station.
Leaving the beach and heading back towards the reserve, we stopped to scan the water either side of the causeway. Three Black-necked Grebe and a single Slav Grebe were still present on New Diggings and a Great White Egret was found on Arc Pit.
Pulling into the reserve, we stopped at Cook's pool to find the Ring-necked Duck still present. First reported in early November it's approaching it's sixth month on site.
While watching the Ring-necked Duck the first Sedge Warblers of the year were heard calling from nearby vegetation and later seen further along the track. Another two Wheatear were also seen feeding among the short grass and shingle as we approached the car park. With time short we made a quick visit to the dipping pond and found one of the Long-eared Owls showing well.

Long-eared Owl (B Anderson)

A drive along the entrance track at Elmley on route home produced the usual suspects, Redshank, Lapwing, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Grey Heron and Marsh Harrier but the hoped for Yellow Wagtails had not yet arrived.

Meadow Pipit

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Red-flanked Bluetail, Titchwell

A bonus trip to Norfolk this morning coincided with the presence of a Red-flanked Bluetail at Titchwell. Having first been found on Saturday the 25th, it was still present all day Sunday and we were hopeful it would still be present today.
On route we stopped at Wolferton hoping to catch a glimpse of what is now likely to be the only surviving Golden Pheasant left at this site. We left without seeing it, but heard it calling several times during our short stay.
Arriving at Titchwell, we headed for the Meadow Trail area and began to scan the surrounding areas for any sign of the Red-flanked Bluetail. Having wandered away from the main area news broke that the bird had been seen at the Western end of Meadow Trail. We quickly joined a small group of birders at the end of the boardwalk and were soon enjoying views of the bird as it appeared among the tangled branches and began feeding among the damp leaf litter. 
Heading along the main path a small flock of Knot and seven Red-crested Pochard were seen adding two more species to my year list.

Grey Plover

Leaving Titchwell we headed for New Holkham and Blunt's Corner where Brian quickly found the Pallid Harrier sitting in the bottom field. We also enjoyed close views of Red Kite, with at least five birds seen in the area.
A stop at Lynford on our way home failed to locate any Hawfinch, but did provide good views of Crossbill close to the bridge and Brambling at the feeders along with Marsh Tit, Treecreeper and Nuthatch.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Landguard, Minsmere and North warren

Another Suffolk trip this morning, arriving at Landguard shortly after first light. A walk out towards the ranger's cottage in cold North-Easterly winds produced very little in the way of new arrivals. Just a few Chiffchaffs the only migrants seen. Linnets were present in good numbers along with six Ringed Plovers and several Shelduck.
A large container ship heading into port attracted large numbers of Gulls and Gannets and Brian picked out a real surprise in the form of a Pomarine Skua low across the water heading North.
A stop at Iken failed to produce any sightings of the long staying Cattle Egret despite checking all the favoured areas and surrounding fields.
Moving on to Minsmere and with time limited we dropped into Island Mere hide and watched several pairs of displaying Marsh Harriers over the reedbeds. At least seven Goosander were present on the water and Bearded Tits showed occasionally, but were more often heard than seen. On route to the Bittern hide we had views of an Adder basking in the sun before it slipped away into deeper cover. Shortly after entering the Bittern hide a Bittern flew low over a section of reeds for a welcome year tick. A Water Rail and a Cetti's Warbler both showed well in front of the hide.

Bittern (Taken on a previous visit)

News of a Spoonbill came through, so we headed off to North Warren in search of it. A brief scan from one of the viewing platforms and we found the sleeping Spoonbill among a large flock of resting gulls.
Before heading for home we made another visit to Iken searching for the Cattle Egret but again it failed to appear.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Day's birding in Suffolk

A day's birding in Suffolk started with a visit to Iken, hoping the long staying Cattle Egret would make an appearance at first light. Unfortunately after an hours search of the usual paddocks and surrounding fields there was just a single Little Egret found.
From here we went in search of Dartford Warblers on the heath. Despite the blue skies and sun shining the fierce winds made conditions difficult and despite a lenghty search we headed back to the car having failed to locate any Dartford Warblers. About to drive away two birds appeared in gorse by the roadside, Two Dartford Warblers! These were soon joined by five more individuals, and they happily fed among the gorse while we watched from the comfort of the car. As we watched a Sparrowhawk appeared on the grass right by the road. Flushed by a passing car it flew alongside our car and disappeared into the gorse causing panic among the Dartford Warblers. Happily they soon resumed feeding among the gorse either side of the road.

At Minsmere  Entering the Wildlife Outlook (formerly Western Hide). We were told a pair of Garganey were sleeping behind a small island in front of the hide. Unfortunately they remained hidden for the next hour. and when a passing raptor flies overhead flushing the pair I miss them because I'm watching an Otter fishing in a pool close by and then following two House Martins as they fly across in front of the hide. The Garganey had flown over the ridge in the middle of the scrape, with no chance of seeing them from Western Hide, we headed round to North Hide and after some scanning with the scope I managed to locate the pair tucked in the reeds some distant away. 
Before heading for home we made a return trip to Iken hoping the Cattle Egret would be showing. Luckily as we passed Sandy Lane the bird is spotted along the edge of the bottom paddock with a small herd of cattle.