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.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Waxwing at Sculthorpe Moor, Norfolk

Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve had played host to a single Waxwing since Tuesday the 21st, and it was our main target today. We arrived shortly after the reserve had opened and connected with the Waxwing as soon as we entered the reserve. It was perched at the top of a large oak tree behind the visitor centre and would fly down to pluck a berry from the bushes and quickly return to the oak tree with its meal.

A leisurely stroll around the reserve produced double-figure numbers of Bullfinch from various feeding stations and our first Bramblings of the year was seen from Volunteer Hide.

We moved on to Titchwell, failing to locate the Woodcock but we did find our first Chiffchaff at the beginning of the Meadow Trail. As we walked the main footpath a Bittern dropped into the reedbed and slowly began to walk through the reeds, giving several opportunities to view it.

Before heading for home we stopped at Cockley Cley hoping to connect with Willow Tit. We found the feeding station back up and running and it was attracting a steady flow of birds. Blue, Great, Coal, Marsh and Willow Tits all came in to feed. Both Marsh and Willow Tits were very vocal as they flew in to feed making ID very easy.

Feeding Station 

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Black Redstart, Walthamstow Wetlands

Time was limited today, so we decided to visit Walthamstow Wetlands. After negotiating the heavy morning traffic we then went about renewing the permits that allow early morning access to the site. We spent the first hour trying and failing to locate the Firecrests along the river near the car park and along the track towards the Engine Room.

Engine Room (Reserve Centre)

We decided to try our luck with the Black Redstart that had taken up residence around the tower at the southern end of Lockwood Reservoir. Before we had reached the reservoir we spotted the target perched on the lifebuoy next to the tower. Brian managed to grab the photo below.

Black Redstart

The tower and Lifebouy the Redstart was using

Lockwood Reservoir was like a millpond

A Peregrine was perched on a nearby pylon finishing off a kill it had recently made before the local crows forced it to move, The crows harassed it in the air but in truth, the Peregrine just seemed to be playing with the crows.

After crossing Forest Road again we joined the locals who had managed to find the pair of Bearded Tits among the reeds by the Engine Room. 

We had around an hour left before we had to leave, so we returned to our search for Firecrests. We walked up and down the footpath next to the car park and eventually, Brian spotted one of the Firecrests flitting about with a small flock of Long-tailed Tits. An added bonus while searching for the Firecrest was a Sparrowhawk that flew low through the trees along the riverbank and up and over the road.