Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Jack Snipe, Rye Meads Nature Reserve

A relatively local trip this afternoon saw us visit Rye Meads Nature Reserve in Hertfordshire. Upon arrival, we headed for Gadwall hide hoping to find the Jack Snipe that had been reported yesterday. As we entered the hide a local birder had the snipe in his scope and after some helpful directions so did we. It was tucked right down among the short reeds on a narrow spit and only the back of the bird was visible. Thankfully it did become more active during our visit.

View from Gadwall Hide (Jack Snipe was on the small spit to right of shot)

I tried to grab a shot with the phone handheld to the scope.

Jack Snipe (right of centre)

An added bonus was two Green Sandpipers that flew in and landed on one of the islands, giving myself a dad another welcome year tick. The reserve itself was relatively quiet, perhaps due to the work being carried out on the new Kingfisher hide further along the track.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Great Grey Shrike: Fincham, Norfolk

Having dipped the Great Grey Shrike last Sunday I was keen to visit the site again this morning. We arrived on site around 6.30am and began scanning the telegraph wires, hedges and surrounding fields for any sign of the Shrike, but after several scans and drives up and down Black Drove we had failed to connect. The surrounding fields were full of Hares and a sizable herd of Roe Deer was also present. Several Grey Partridge were busy feeding on the short-cropped grass and Yellowhammers were flying to and from the roadside hedges. We returned to the entrance track of Raven's Farm and while watching a Blackbird on the telegraph post the Shrike suddenly appeared close by on the wires.

Sunrise at Fincham

Great Grey Shrike

With my day's main target already seen, we headed to Thornham Harbour and quickly located a Greenshank for another addition to the year list. Spotted Redshank, Grey plover, Rock Pipit and Twite were also seen here.

View of Thornham Harbour from the car park

The RSPB reserve at Titchwell is only two miles from Thornham and shortly after arriving we finally connected with the Woodcock! it had proved very elusive on previous visits, but Brian managed to spot it among the tangled branches. 


The regular Water Rail was spotted on the walkout along with several newly arrived Chiffchaffs. Twenty plus Med Gulls within the fenced area on Freshwater Marsh gave me another year tick and among them was a Black-headed Gull with a really deep pink flush that really stood out among the gulls. A Water Pipit was also seen at close range along the water's edge. Reports of two Cranes heading our way from Holme saw us join a small group of birders along the West Bank and sure enough, they appeared overhead shortly afterward. 

We stopped at Lynford and connected with Brambling, Yellowhammer, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and a distant Hawfinch before moving on to Cockley Cley. It was getting late in the day but we managed distant views of a single Goshawk along with several Buzzards.

A very brief stop at Lackford Lakes before closing time, saw us add Lesser Redpoll to our year lists. Thanks to the reserve staff member who provided some helpful information 

A very productive and enjoyable day produced 102 species and five new additions to the year list.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Ferruginous Duck, Abberton Reservoir

The plan this morning was to visit Abberton Reservoir at first light and hopefully find the reported Fudge Duck early and then return home before the predicted heavy rains and winds arrived.
Of course, it didn't go exactly to plan. Upon arrival, we began scanning the body of water between the two causeways, scanning through two large flocks of Pochard failed to deliver the target and after several lengthy scans, we only managed to find a Great White Egret a single drake Goldeneye and a Kingfisher of any note. We switched our attention to the main reservoir and added several Goosander and Goldeneye, a pair of Scaup two distant Long-tailed Ducks and a female Tufted Duck that had a hideous looking nasal ring.

There was still no sign of the Fudge Duck so we drove round to Layer Breton causeway and began the search again. We added two Whooper Swans two redhead Smew and two more Great White Egret to the days total but still couldn't find the main target.

We had been searching for four hours and decided to return to Layer De La Haye causeway and give it a final scan. After scanning through the small flocks of teal and Mallards that were emerging from the thick tangles of waterside branches the Fudge Duck suddenly appeared out in the open! There was just enough time to get decent scope views before the bird took flight and headed towards the large rafts of Pochard and Tufted Duck near Layer Breton causeway. We drove back around and managed brief views of the bird before it again disappeared out of view.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Hoopoe: Badminston Lane, Hampshire

After positive news yesterday of the continued presence of the Hoopoe, we made the two-hour drive along the M25 and M3 and were parking up by the horse paddocks along Badminston lane in Southampton shortly after 8am. Initial scans of the paddock failed to produce any sign of the Hoopoe, mainly due to the presence of a guy tending to the horses. 

The horse paddock

In previous days the Hoopoe could be quite wide-ranging and several birders began wandering off along the tracks hoping to locate it. We remained by the paddocks and were rewarded twenty minutes later when the Hoopoe flew in. It stayed for less than one minute and then flew off. We managed to re-find it along the track but it quickly took flight again. While searching for the Hoopoe we watched three Woodlarks displaying overhead for another addition to the year list. We decided to return to the horse paddocks and wait it out. This proved a wise move as the Hoopoe eventually reappeared and this time happily fed among the short-cropped grass close to the horses.



Keyhaven Marshes was only thirteen miles away and we were soon parked up by the sea wall car park along Lower Pennington Lane. We took the main path and found a single Spoonbill on Fishtail Lagoon, unfortunately, it took flight and headed over the far bank of trees towards Keyhaven Marshes. After walking the sea wall to the end of the path we managed to find the Spoonbill resting at the far edge of the marsh.

Fishtail lagoon


Sunday, 2 February 2020

Ring Ouzel: Pitstone Hill, Bucks

We only had the morning for birding today, so we stayed within an hour of home. Pitstone Hill was our first destination. An overwintering Ring Ouzel had been in the area since late December and this morning we arrived at first light and found the bird perched up in a tree before leaving the car park. It then spent the majority of its time searching for earthworms among the damp grass.

Ring Ouzel

We left after a couple of hours and headed for the aquadrome in Rickmansworth. The free car park was very welcome and something of a rarity in itself these days. Stockers Lake is the largest of a series of three lakes and also the furthest lake from the car park. Scoping the lake from the causeway we managed to pick out our target, a single male Red-crested pochard. 

Cassiobury Park was now only four miles away and with Little owl having eluded us in January we were quickly on site. The car park allows a free two-hour stay but you still need to obtain a ticket from the machine to qualify. We had no idea which area of the park the Little Owls favoured, But several of the trees close to the car park looked good and sure enough, a single bird was spotted within minutes.

Little Owl

Our last stop was to Tyttenhanger GP hoping to locate the local Tree Sparrows. The recent rainfall made the walk to the feeding station heavy going and wellingtons should have been the order of the day. After reaching the area we could hear the Tree Sparrows but locating them proved more difficult. Eventually, a flock of ten birds flew from deep within the hedgerow and then a single bird dropped onto the feeder.

Feeding Station at Tyttenhanger GP

An enjoyable and productive morning birding, with four sites, visited and four new additions to the year list. All within an hour of home.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Iceland Gull, Beckton Sewage Treatment Works

News of an Iceland Gull at Beckton had us eager to visit the site. The only problem was we had never visited this area before. Fortunately, Shaun H kindly gave me some site directions. Armed with this information we arrived on site and made our way behind the cinema and headed off along the footpath, only to realise we had taken the bottom path and we should have taken the top one! 

Back on the right path, we passed the Becton Creekside Nature Reserve and picked out the Iceland Gull among the numerous Black-headed Gulls as soon as we reached the gates. We spent 3 hours on-site enjoying plenty of flight views of the Iceland Gull.

Iceland Gull

Black-headed Gulls

Monday, 27 January 2020

Turtle Dove: Valentine's Park, Ilford

We only had a few hours of birding available today, so we decided to visit Valentine's Park in Ilford and hopefully connect with the overwintering Turtle Dove that had been found by the local RSPB group on Saturday. At this time of year, you would expect Turtle Doves to be spending the winter in sub-Saharan West Africa and not within the London recording area!

Valentine's Park lake and island

We arrived at the park shortly after 8am and made our way towards the lake. There were several Collared Doves perched in the trees bordering the lake but the Turtle Dove was not among them. As the light improved the Collared Doves took flight and disappeared over the trees and headed towards the surrounding houses. We spent the next two hours searching all of the surrounding areas without any sign of the bird. As we returned to the lake area after yet another search several Collared Doves were seen flying into the trees on the island. Another scan and the Turtle Dove was found perched on a branch overhanging the lake. It then flew to a dead tree at the front of the island.