Monday, 9 October 2017

American Wigeon: Rutland Water, Leicestershire

Leaving at 5.30am this morning, with a plan to head Northward along the A1 and if the Scops Owl was found roosting we could continue up to Ryhope and view the bird.

Arriving at Rutland water nice and early, we headed off along the footpath towards Smew Hide. The hide looks out across Lagoon II, and the American Wigeon was quickly located feeding among a flock of Eurasian Wigeon.

American Wigeon

With no news on the Scops Owl, we decided to have a search for Willow Tits at a site we have had success with on previous occasions. On the walk down to the first hide, Brian and I heard a Willow Tit calling. Your best chance of seeing Willow tits here are when the feeders have been filled-up. While waiting we were entertained by a Kingfisher that landed on the posts at the water's edge. A Snipe emerged from the reeds and two Green Sandpipers dropped in.

The trees around the feeders are frequently used before the birds drop down to feed, plenty of birds were visiting. All the usual suspects were regularly seen including Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Chaffinch and a stunning male Bullfinch made a brief appearance.

It took an hour and a half, but eventually, we were finally rewarded with a visit from a Willow Tit!

Willow Tit

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Long-billed Dowitcher & Wilson's Phalarope in Kent

A little bonus trip this afternoon, and after braving the mid-day traffic we eventually arrived at Oare Marshes. Normally on our, dawn visits, there are very few cars and parking is easy. Today the place was packed!
Water levels had dropped considerably from our last visit and there were large numbers of birds taking advantage. Both the main target birds, Long-billed Dowitcher and Wilson's Phalarope were quickly found with both happily feeding in front of the viewing area on the West side along the entrance track. 

Alongside these two North America vagrants, there were plenty of supporting cast members with 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 3 Little Stint, 2 Ruff a single Greenshank and Water rail. Large flocks of roosting Dunlin, Golden Plover and Black-tailed Godwits were very obvious along with good numbers of Ringed Plover, Avocet, Redshank and Lapwing.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Red-throated pipit, Landguard NR

At 9.45am yesterday morning a Red-throated Pipit was found at Landguard NR. It remained at the Southern end of the common throughout the day. With only four accepted records of Red-throated pipit in Suffolk, the last of which was at Minsmere in 2001, this individual had many Suffolk birders hurrying to Landguard to bag a very welcome county tick. 
With heavy overnight rain forecast, we thought there was a good chance of the bird still being present this morning. Light rain was falling on route but it had ceased by the time we pulled into the car park along View Point Road. Leaving the car we headed along the path in front of the Observatory and made our way towards the Wardens Cottage. As we approached, we could see a small group of birders including LGRE scanning the shingle and grass near the boardwalk. The bird had been heard calling and had been seen briefly in the company of a couple of Meadow Pipits. As we started scanning the area the bird flew directly overhead calling. It dropped down onto the short grass and began feeding close to the concrete blocks.
It fed on the common for 15-20 minutes and then relocated to an area a short distance from the warden's cottage. I managed a couple of record shots using the phone held to the scope.

Red-throated pipit 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Red-necked Grebe: Roding Valley Lake, 3rd Visit

I made another brief visit to Roding Valley Lake this afternoon hoping the Red-necked Grebe would still be present. A quick scan from the West bank and I found it out in the middle of the lake.
I turned away from the lake as a Common Buzzard drifted across the cricket pitch and a Sparrowhawk flew across the top of the Willow Trees near the water's edge.
I'm not sure if the Buzzard or Sparrowhawk had spooked the Grebe, but it was nowhere to be seen when I scanned the lake again. No sign of it at it's favoured Southern end or along the Eastern side. Having walked around most of the lake, noting two Little Egret, three Grey Heron and two Terrapins (Red-eared) possibly? I eventually found the Grebe drifting along with a small group of Coots. The weather was dull and overcast and the Grebe remained distant, but I took a few shots all the same.

The local Canada Geese approached much closer. Trying to grab some of the attention away from the star bird.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Red-necked Grebe, Roding Valley Lake

As twitches go, there won't be a closer one to home than this. A five minute amble across the field and I'm standing at the edge of the lake. I had a quick look on Friday evening, but the light was fading fast and I only managed brief scope views before the light disappeared completely.
The weather forecast today was much more favourable and with the sun shining mid-morning I took another stroll over to the lake. It had been favouring the Southern corner for the majority of its stay, but upon arrival, the Grebe was way over in the Northern corner close to the over-hanging branches of the bankside Willows. However, within 15-20 minutes it soon returned to its favoured Southern corner. Cue the cameras!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Spotted Crake, Ingrebourne Valley

Another short trip today and a visit to the Ingrebourne Valley, where a Spotted Crake had been located yesterday. Arriving shortly after 8am, It's a short walk from the car park to the viewing screen, but there had been no sign of the bird so far this morning. After 30-45 minutes of scanning, Brian and his lucky jumper picked the bird out. It was moving through the short reeds to the left of the viewing area. It spent the next hour playing hide 'n' seek with us. Showing well at times, but it didn't like open ground and would run from one area of cover to the next.

Spotted Crake

Another year tick added to the list today and the last four days have produced 2 lifers and six year ticks.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

White-winged Black Tern at Tyttenhanger

After yesterday's trip to Lodmoor and Portland in Dorset and the five-hour drive home, we stayed much closer to home today. Just a twenty-mile drive along the M25 and we arrive at Tyttenhanger fishing lakes.
The Tern had first been reported on the 12th originally having been reported as a Black Tern but quickly re-identified as a White-winged Black Tern. It's Favoured Willow Farm Fishing Lake throughout its stay. Park in Willows Activity Farm car park, follow the footpath to the river and cross the bridge to view. 

That was what we should have done, but unsure of the location we instead drove round to the fishing lake tackle shop. Luckily the guy running the Carp fishing lakes allowed us through the gate and to drive round to the bottom lake (Willows). This would not normally be allowed, but we were grateful he allowed it today.

The moulting adult was seen immediately on arrival, Putting on a superb aerial display throughout our visit.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Least & Stilt Sandpipers at Lodmoor

A surprise text from Brian last night, and we are meeting up at 4.30am this morning heading for Dorset. Arriving around 7.30 we quickly fed the car park meter and headed off towards the Bandstand to view the scrape. Luckily the small group of gathered birders put us onto the Least Sandpiper immediately It was busy feeding along the back edge of the scrape. Too distant for the camera but some nice scope views were had.While viewing the Least Sandpiper we are told that the Stilt Sandpiper had been seen earlier but that it had flown to an area out of view. We moved round to the Western footpath and began scanning the birds present. After a few brief scans, a single bird flew in from the South. Checking it out through the scope confirms the ID as the Stilt Sandpiper. Two lifers within an hour of arriving!

Stilt Sandpiper

Moving on to Portland, we receive negative news on the Buff-Breasted Sandpiper, so move on to the Observatory Quarry and after a brief scan, we locate the Wryneck tucked away among the rocks on the opposite side of the Quarry. It briefly appears on the rocks and then drops down onto the Quarry floor.

The Buff-Breasted Sandpiper despite a lengthy search remained elusive and didn't re-appear. The Hoopoe proved just as elusive and we failed to find it during our visit.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Citrine Wagtail, Minsmere RSPB

Pulling into the car park at Minsmere this morning, we headed off along the North path to find the East Scrape covered in sea mist. Visibility was poor with only the island directly in front of the hide clearly visible. 
An hour or so later and the mist began to clear and a more detailed scan of the scrape could begin. Several Pied Wagtails were showing well and while scanning through these the Citrine Wagtail appeared. Landing on the long grass bank it quickly dropped below the bank and out of view. It took flight and during the next two hours, it favoured a small island around post 9. Eventually, it took flight again and headed towards the area around the West Hide and was lost to view.

Good numbers of other birds were feeding out on the scrape and these included Green and Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Ruff, Snipe, Water Rail, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Lapwing and Dunlin. 

We made our way round to the West Hide and managed to re-locate the Citrine Wagtail close to number 2 post. It remained distant but Brian managed to grab the photo below.

Citrine Wagtail 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Woodchat Shrike: Chipping Sodbury, Gloucester

Having dipped at least four Woodchat Shrikes in the last few years, two of which were in my home county, I was very keen to try for the Gloucestershire bird. First reported on the 30th August it was still present yesterday evening. 
The forecast for today was not good, with light rain in the morning and heavy rainfall for the whole afternoon. Nonetheless, we set off shortly after 5am and arrived around 7am. The rain had already started to fall as we set off across the common in search of the Shrike. Luckily the original finder was just heading off on his morning circuit of the site and gave us some good pointers as to where to begin searching. 
The rain became heavier and it wasn't looking good, but sightings of several Whinchats and Redstarts were very welcome. With the Whinchat needed for a year tick. 
Shortly after 8am, the rain eased and with a break in the clouds, the Shrike suddenly appeared at the top of a small bush!

It's not a good feeling dipping a bird, but thankfully we haven't experienced that feeling very often. Woodchat Shrike though has proved an exception for me, today I've finally managed to see one!

I would have been happy to go straight back home after seeing it, but being close to Slimbridge and never visited before to seemed rude not to visit.
We started off by visiting the hides that looked out across scrapes and grassland, finding truly wild birds like Green and Wood Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Wagtails and Common Crane.

Sir Peter Scott

We then spent the remainder of our visit walking around the captive bird pens. Although captive they do give you a great chance to get up close to birds normally seen at a much greater distance. Slimbridge has a huge collection of birds, allowing close views of ducks such as Canvasback, Cinnamon Teal, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Wood Duck, Lesser Scaup, Eider, Barrow's Goldeneye, Bufflehead and Hooded Merganser. Several species of Geese were also on show including Red-breasted, Bar-headed, Bean, and Pink-footed. Several species of Flamingo were also on show around the wetland centre.

We found it a very enjoyable place to visit, just a shame we went on a day that it rained the entire time spent there. Hopefully, we can pay it a return visit in more pleasant weather conditions.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Western Swamphen: Accepted by BOURC!

More good news after arriving home, another addition to the life list!

Taken from the BOU website

Red-Necked Phalarope, Abberton Reservoir

With positive news that the Red-necked Phalarope had remained at Abberton into its second day, we made the fifty mile trip around mid-morning.
Upon arrival, we quickly joined the handful of birders already present and found the Red-necked Phalarope immediately.  It remained distant throughout our stay but occasionally ventured close enough to obtain some nice scope views.

An added bonus was the presence of a Pectoral Sandpiper. Viewing was proving difficult with the heat haze and distance involved. But again some nice scope views were had when the bird moved around the muddy spits while feeding. 
The reported Spoonbill from earlier this morning had moved on by the time we arrived, but a Great White Egret was showing well at half the distance of the pec Sandpiper.

Hide/viewing screen at Wigborough Bay

While watching the Phalarope we were entertained by the Red Arrows. Almost certainly from the Clacton Air Show held today. The final sighting of the day was a fly over Spitfire.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Caspian Tern: Hickling Broad, Norfolk

The Caspian tern was first seen on the 16th August at Rush Hill Scrape. it has spent its time computing between Rush Hill Scrape and Breydon Water. Preferring to roost at Breydon and spend most of the day at Rush Hill.
Still, present yesterday evening and with Brian having a few days off work we made the trip this morning. Arriving at Potter Heigham we parked up by the Church and headed off along Church Lane. This was a new site for me and it could have proved tricky to find, luckily Brian knew exactly where to go having visited previously. A few twists and turns along grass paths and then taking the path through the woods we soon arrived at the hide. The Caspian tern showed immediately flying backwards and forth beyond the scrape. 
Eventually, it headed back towards the scrape and landed close to the tern raft among flocks of Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwings, giving superb scope views. A passing Hobby put many of the roosting waders up into the air and the Caspian Tern took flight with them. 
The scrape held several species of wader, including Dunlin, Common and Green Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Avocet and also a single Little Stint.
The Caspian Tern suddenly appeared to the left of the hide, allowing Brian to grab the below shot as it heading back towards the scrape.

Caspian tern

A new addition to the life list for me!

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.