Friday, 12 May 2023

Blue-winged Teal: Freiston Shore, Lincolnshire

A morning spent at Frampton on Tuesday the 9th resulted in only one new addition to the year total when two Little Stints were found among a large group of Ringed Plovers and Dunlin. We walked the complete circuit searching and ultimately failing to locate any Curlew Sandpipers, Spotted Redshanks, Wood Sandpipers, or the Blue-winged Teal. A scan from the seawall did however locate the three Black-winged Stilts busily feeding to the north of the 360 hide. Several Whimbrel, Yellow Wagtails, and Little Ringed Plovers were also seen on the wet grasslands. 

The new visitor centre and cafe are great additions to the site and the staff are always friendly and welcoming. 

Two Little Stints were found among the large flock on the left of the photo.

This morning we decided to head to Norfolk, stopping on the way at Welney Village where we heard a Corncrake. We failed to see the bird despite plenty of searching, but it was good to hear it constantly calling. We also added Garden Warbler to the year list. 

Upon arrival, we found a rucksack by the gate, it contained a camera and the bag was dry so must have been left behind this morning and not during last night's rain. The plan would have been to leave it at Welney visitor centre but it was only 7am and the reserve didn't open until 10am! So Brian put a tweet out asking if anybody had left a bag behind hoping the owner would see it. Luckily as we returned to the car the owner of the bag pulled up. So he got his bag and belongings back and we didn't have the worry of what to do with it for the rest of the day.

From here we drove to Choseley hoping some of the Dotterel had remained overnight. Two of them had and to all our surprise it was Dad who found them! They were very distant but we had good scope views at this time of the morning without any heat haze to worry about. They were feeding along the distant hedge line in the photo below.

Dotterel field

We moved on to Titchwell, where there was no sight nor sound of the Great Reed Warbler from the previous day. I added Med Gull to my year list with at least five birds seen among the numerous Black-headed Gulls. Three Little Gulls (an adult and 2 1st winters) dropped onto the scrape in front of the Parrinder hide, a low-flying helicopter put the geese up, and among them was a Spoonbill. When they settled back down we found a second Spoonbill among them. The weather conditions this morning were awful, it was freezing, much more like winter than spring. We left Titchwell and stopped at Thornham to tick two Wood sandpipers that were on the wet grassland. The rain, wind, and cold conditions made viewing a real challenge. I was swiping my glasses and optics more than I was viewing the birds! it soon got even worse and eventually forced us back to the car.

Weather conditions were forecast to improve in the afternoon, so did we head for home or continue north to Freiston Shore in Lincolnshire and hope the Blue-winged Teal that had relocated here from Frampton earlier in the week was still present today. Having only ever seen one Blue-winged Teal beforehand I was keen to go, and luckily Brian had already decided he was going. Upon arrival, we soon found the viewing screen overlooking what is locally called "the reservoir" but is in fact a relatively small body of water. Only two other birders were present and neither had found the teal. Two drake Garganey were found in the flooded area behind the reservoir and two Yellow Wagtails were also seen. After several scans of the whole area, Brian suddenly spots the teal! It's along the back edge and where it came from is a mystery, having scanned that area plenty of times with no sign previously. It remained distant but we enjoyed superb scope views.

Signage at the entrance

Information board at the car park

Photos below were taken with the phone handheld to the scope.

Blue-winged Teal

Thursday, 4 May 2023

Abberton and Wrabness

Brian had some free time this morning, so we made a couple of relatively short trips. Abberton was our first destination. A Pectoral Sandpiper had been found the previous day and we connected with it upon arrival. It was on a small flooded area opposite the Wigborough Bay area. Also present were several Ruff three Ringed Plovers and our first Greenshanks of the year, with four feeding in the far lefthand corner. A brief scan from the viewing screen produced another nine Greenshanks but very little else. A stop at Layer Breton Causeway added a single Spoonbill asleep on one of the islands and a Common Sandpiper was also present on the same island. My first Hobby of the year was also added from here when Brian spotted a single bird over the far reeds.

It's been a long time since our last visit to Wrabness, but today we found it alive with the sound of Nightingales. Several individuals were heard singing from various locations along the footpaths. The main reason for the visit was to hopefully see Turtle Doves. We soon heard our first ones of the year purring from nearby trees. It wasn't long before one was found among the tree branches.

Turtle Dove

Thursday, 27 April 2023

White-crowned Sparrow: Seaford Head, East Sussex

The White-crowned Sparrow was found at Seaford Head on Saturday the 22nd. We watched the reports of the bird's continued presence but with words like "mobile", "very elusive" and "no sign" combined with the fact that Brian was still recovering from illness we resisted travelling. Brian however was keen to go at some point having dipped the 2016 Cheshire bird while travelling back from Scotland. Yesterday we cracked and having arrived at the car park at 8am, headed off down the grass track to join around twenty or so other birders already present. Most were viewing the open scrub area that sloped up the hill towards the top coastal path. The remainder were staking out a couple of seeded areas along the central path. At 9am Alex B saw the bird in the open scrub area, and although Brian was standing next to him at the time, it disappeared before Brian could get his bins up!

At midday, we headed back to the car park for some quick refreshments and of course, the bird was seen fifteen minutes later! This time at the seeded area towards the end of the track. We staked this area out until 3pm but after 7 frustrating hours on site, we headed home disappointed. Only for the bird to reappear at the seed an hour and a half later and would continue to return several times that evening!

This morning Brian wanted to give it another go, so at 7am we were once again heading for Seaford, arriving just after 9am. We headed back down the track and as we walked up the slope the bird was sitting out in a tree close to the seeded area! Seven hours of disappointment yesterday were forgotten within a minute this morning. That's birding for you. We watched it coming to the seed every fifteen minutes or so, quite often within the thicker cover, but every once in a while allowing stunning views.

We took a short walk down to the sea and managed to get views of Rock Pipit and then a female Redstart, both additions to the year list. 

The main track down to the bird's location

The Seven Sisters

Heading back to the car park we watched this Spitfire flying low overhead.

On the way home we stopped off at Thorndon Country Park hoping to connect with the Black-crowned Night Heron. It was still present but in deep cover and well hidden.

It was well hidden left of the horizontal branch in shot!

Heron was in the trees at the north end of Old Hall Pond 

It was well hidden!

Sunday, 12 March 2023

Little Bunting and Waxwings

 A Little Bunting relatively close to home gave us the opportunity for a mornings birding. We arrived at Stanborough Lakes and walked south along the path looking out for the green feeder. Upon arrival, there was a small group of birders already present including Matt and George M. The Little Bunting was busily feeding in the company of a few Reed Bunting. It was a little distant and difficult looking straight into the sun so we didn't stay long.

Brian wanted to use the spare time we had to visit Lincroft in Bedfordshire to see if the Waxwings were still present. We drove north up the M1 and parked in the high street and walked to Lincroft. Upon arrival, the three Waxwings were feeding on the crab apples in the front garden of the corner house. 

Crab Apple tree at Lincroft

It was nice to be out birding again and any day spent watching Waxwings is a pleasure.

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

Birding in the Brecks

It's been a while, but today we managed a day's birding in the brecks. We began the day at Lakenheath hoping to connect with the recently reported Tundra Geese. We walked along the grass bank, stopping briefly to scan the washland. Four Whooper Swans were present on the water and a Great Egret was seen at the edge of the reeds. As we rounded the bend an Otter was spotted ahead of us. It was a brief view and the only view we got despite scanning up and down the river several times.

A frosty and misty start at the Lakenheath washland

We walked the length of the river bank scanning each group of Canada and Greylag Geese for any sign of the Tundra geese. There was no sign of the geese, but we did see another two Great Egrets. We walked the return route back to the New Fen Viewpoint and managed to add Bearded Tit and Water Rail to the year list. Returning to the river bank we noted much higher numbers of geese present, but a dredger flushed them all before we could scan through them. Luckily several groups soon returned and I managed to spot the three Bean Geese flying towards the washland. 

Tundra Bean Geese

Whooper Swans

The main target today was Goshawk and after leaving Lakenheath we headed for Cockley Cley. The news from the guys present wasn't very encouraging, and they soon decided to head off. We stuck it out and were rewarded with several sightings. First, a single bird flew into view, and then a pair showed some display interaction before perching up in the taller pines. Although distant for the camera the scope views were fantastic! As well as the Goshawks there were Peregrine, Sparrowhawks, Kestrels, and double figures of Buzzards.


Hand held Phone shot through the scope

Before the guys left they had seen Brambling feeding in the set-aside a short distance away, but all I could manage were Chaffinch, Linnet, and Goldfinch. Another addition to the year list came in the form of a Woodlark. We heard it singing at regular intervals, then it flew into the top of the tree next to us and then landed in the field behind us.

Our last site of the day was Lynford, but again we failed to see any Hawfinch despite another couple of hours of searching.  However, the good news was that someone had started putting seed down again at the gate, and while watching four Yellowhammers a single Brambling dropped in to feed among them.

16th: We made a brief visit to Bramfield this afternoon and within a minute of being on-site managed to see a Hawfinch!

St Andrew's Church, Bramfield


Sunday, 29 January 2023

Richardson's Cackling Goose, Norfolk

This morning we travelled to Norfolk hoping to find a Richardson's Cackling Goose. In 2012 we saw one at Kelling, but the powers that be decided it had dubious credentials, therefore it wasn't accepted and didn't make my list. 

We left home early stopping at Welney on the way. Connecting with Tree Sparrows among the bramble bushes and three Cattle Egret flew up and over the road in front of us. A Barn Owl landed on a nearby fence post and flew even closer while hunting along the fence line. Thousands of Whooper Swans were in nearly all the surrounding fields. 

Positive news came through that the Cackling Goose had been seen, so we headed to Brancaster and found a space on the concrete pad along Mill Road. The goose was still present, but distant in the far sugar beet field with a large flock of Pink-footed Geese. It took a while to locate the goose, but with helpful directions from Graham J I eventually located it at the front of the Pink-foots. Hopefully, this bird will make it onto my list.

Holkham was our next destination and we got lucky when we connected with a Firecrest in trees near the outlook cafe. A seawatch from the gap was productive picking out a Velvet Scoter among the numerous commons along with Long-tailed Duck and several Red-breasted Mergansers.

Saturday, 21 January 2023

Lesser Scaup and Jack Snipe

With only the morning available for birding today, we stayed relatively close to home and a trip around the M25 to Staines Reservoir. We arrived shortly after first light and headed through the kissing gate and up the ramp to the causeway. A Lesser Scaup had been reported from this site since the 16th of January, with further reports suggesting the bird had been present since the 20th of December! Several birders were already present and all had their scopes trained on a sizable flock of Pochard. We quickly located the Lesser Scaup among the flock. It was asleep for the majority of the time we were on site, waking briefly to stretch a wing.

Lesser Scaup among Pochard flock

With time limited we cut the visit short and headed back along the M25 and up the A1(M) to Lemsford Springs in Hertfordshire. The reserve was much busier than normal, due to the fact that three Jack Snipe had been showing well from the hide recently. We squeezed into the hide and found one of the Jack Snipe asleep on a small frosty mound of earth. We soon found the other two birds tucked under the front edge of the watercress bed. As well as the Jack Snipe there were fourteen Green Sandpipers, two Common Snipe, as well as Grey Wagtails and Little Egrets present.

Jack Snipe

A short time spent birding today adding a couple of decent year ticks and a new addition to my London list with the Lesser Scaup.