Sunday, 18 October 2020

Masked Shrike: Shuart, Kent

It's been sixty-five days since my last birding trip. There have been several reasons for this, Covid cases on the increase, more restrictions being implemented in certain parts of the country, not being able to go out birding as a trio, and lack of motivation all playing a part.

The arrival of a Masked Shrike at Shuart in Kent yesterday had me interested, and when it was reported again this morning it was enough to persuade me to make the trip. The roads were relatively quiet and the seventy-seven miles went by quickly. The news services were saying park at Potten Street and walk along Shuart Lane, but there was plenty of parking along Potten Street Road and at the top of Shuart Lane. A mile walk along Shuart Lane and then Shuart Drove followed before we arrived at a row of Hawthorn and sallows at the edge of a field. There were about twenty birders already present and Brian was among them. We have been observing government rules as closely as possible and this has meant we haven't shared a car since March! Hopefully, we can start birding together again soon. There was plenty of space available in the field and social distance was not a problem. 

I had wanted to see a Masked Shrike for many years, the last twitchable bird at Spurn in 2014, had proved to be well out of range at the time, and the recent Cleveland bird was not even considered due to the distance involved. Today all that was forgotten as I had seen the bird before even setting up the scope. It was perched in a Hawthorn for much of the time I was there but would venture closer at certain times and settle in the hedgerow bordering the two fields.

This could quite possibly be the same bird that appeared at Hartlepool Headland in Cleveland in the early part of October.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Temminck's Stint, Amwell Nature reserve

Early evening on Monday 10th, a Temminck's Stint had been found at Amwell Nature Reserve. With the bird still present on Wednesday afternoon we decided to make the 20-mile trip early today. We arrived at 7am and connected with the Temminck's Stint immediately. 

It was happily feeding on the central island in the picture below.

Temminck's Stint 

Friday 14th August

The lockdown measures this year have seen a big decline in my year list numbers and several birds that I would expect to see in April and May have been missed. Leaving me to try to connect with some of them on the way out rather than on the way in. One of these birds is the Pied Flycatcher, so when Nick C reported two at Wanstead Flats we made the trip that afternoon. As luck would have it we bumped into Nick shortly after leaving the car park and he took us to the SSSI area. It took a while to connect but eventually one showed very nicely among the branches of a Silver Birch.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Caspian Tern: Frampton Marsh, Lincolnshire

A Caspian Tern had been frequently visiting the Reedbed Lagoon at Frampton Marsh since the 10th. During its stay, it had seemingly followed a daily pattern of roosting on the lagoon in front of the visitor centre and then according to the reserve warden it heads off in the direction of Boston and has been returning again 45-60 minutes later.

Leaving home at 7am we pulled into a packed car park some two and a half hours later, only to discover that none of the other birders had seen the tern since 8am. We began scanning the lagoon and soon added two-year ticks when a Little Stint was found followed by two Common Sandpipers. Scanning from one of the viewing mounds dotted along the pathway, we began scanning the large group of roosting godwits and suddenly found the Caspian Tern among them! It was almost completely obscured by the godwits with just its black cap visible. The feeding movements of the godwits disturbed it and it flew a short distance to the open water.

We were told that the Reedbed Hide was now open as long as social distancing was observed, so we made our way along the footpath and began scanning the lagoon. Some of the Spoonbills were showing at a closer range from here.

Social distancing being observed in the hide

View of the reedbed lagoon from the hide

Another scan through the Dunlin and a Curlew Sandpiper was found. Another birder entered the hide and said that there were two Wood Sandpipers on the flooded pools opposite the hide. A quick clean of the hands with the provided hand sanitizer and we were scanning the pools. The Wood Sandpipers were soon found adding another year tick to the list. Also on the pools were several Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers along with two Yellow Wagtails.

Handheld phone scoped photo of Wood sandpiper

After five hours we decided to head for home, but hopefully, it won't be long before a return visit to what is fast becoming my favourite reserve.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Lesser Yellowlegs, Oare Marshes

A Lesser Yellowlegs was still present at Oare Marshes yesterday, having been present since the 12th of July and with reports of a Wood Sandpiper and a Curlew Sandpiper also present we decided to make the trip this morning. I arrived shortly after 6am and found the lesser Yellowlegs almost immediately. My fifth record of this species in England.

Entrance track 

Viewing was challenging from the layby

Lesser Yellowlegs

As is usual at Oare the early morning sun was making viewing difficult from the layby, throwing everything on the flood into shadow. The Lesser Yellowlegs was constantly on the move feeding and as it began feeding in the northern corner it allowed for much better scope views. Several scans of the flood failed to locate the Wood or Curlew Sandpipers and scans from the sea wall also failed to find either bird.

Returning to the layby the Lesser Yellowlegs was quickly refound and a single Whimbrel was found resting on a shingle island. Another scan of the northern corner added a Little Ringed Plover to the year list. Several more lengthy scans of the flood followed producing a single Spotted Redshank among the numerous Common Redshank, along with Med Gulls, Common Terns, Ruff, Knot, Dunlin, Avocet, and Black-tailed Godwits. A Barn Owl was seen hunting the surrounding fields and a Turtle Dove was heard calling in the distance.

Another enjoyable morning at Oare adding three more year ticks to the list.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Bonaparte's Gull returns to Oare Marshes

The Bonaparte's Gull was first seen at Oare Marshes on the 22nd of May 2013  and it has returned every single year since. I have managed to connect with it five out of the seven years. On a previous trip in June, I had been unsuccessful, but recently the Bonaparte's had become more reliable and I was more hopeful of connecting with it today.

Looking East along the seawall towards the hide 

The mudflats looking across the Swale to the Isle of Sheppey 

Still unable to share a car due to Covid, Brian had left home earlier and was already on site and searching for the Bonaparte's Gull from the seawall when I arrived. Two hours later the Bonaparte's appeared on the mudflats east of the slipway. We watched it happily feeding on the mud for an hour or so and then did a loop of East flood picking out Bearded Tits, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Water Rail,  Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets on the way back.

Bonaparte's Gull

Hopefully, it will return again next year and we will be there to see it.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Gull-billed Tern, Dungeness

Early evening on the 23rd June a Gull-billed Tern was reported on Arc Pit at Dungeness. Brian headed down there the next morning and after a couple of hours of searching had bagged himself a lifer.

Thankfully the tern continued to stay faithful to the site and when it was still present on Saturday we decided to make the trip late morning. On route, we had received positive news that the bird was still around Arc Pit. Joining a small group of birders ( always maintaining a safe social distance) along the causeway I had the Gull-billed Tern in the bins before I had even set the scope up! During the next hour, we enjoyed prolonged scope views of the bird flying up and down Arc Pit.

Gull-billed Tern

Happy having added another lifer to my list, we set off in search of a Black-winged Stilt which had been reported from the other end of Arc Pit. Thankfully the car park had been reopened recently thus making parking easy. The Stilt however was anything but easy! After nearly two hours there had been no sign of the bird. Heavy rainfall began to fall giving us a good soaking and forcing us back to the car. The rain eventually relented and the sun came out, another walkout and scan was rewarded with excellent scope views of the Stilt.

Black-winged Stilt

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Nightjars in the King's Forest

Our annual visit to the Brecks this year for Nightjars meant not sharing a car with social distancing rules still very much in place. I Still needed Stone Curlew for a year tick which meant leaving an hour ahead of Brian and visiting a site just six miles away from the Nightjar site. A Woodcock was flushed from the roadside giving dad a year tick. Upon arrival on the heath, the setting sun didn't help with locating the Stone Curlews. Eventually, a family party of four birds were found. They were more distant than usual maybe because of the presence of sheep in the same area.

Difficult viewing conditions

I joined Brian at our usual Nightjar site around 9.30 and didn't have to wait very long before the first Nightjar appeared. Within the next hour, we enjoyed several close views of the birds directly overhead churring, wing clapping, and calling with two birds perching in nearby treesTawny Owls were calling throughout our visit and provided another welcome year tick.