Monday 31 December 2012

A Review of my 2012 birding year

The year started with three species of Redpoll (Lesser, Mealy, Coues's) all feeding in the same tree at the same time just outside the visitor centre at Titchwell. Then at Cley the Western Sandpiper had stayed put into the new year. It proved a difficult bird to find as it was feeding along the back edges when we were there. But with some time and Patience we eventually got better views.
A trip to Hampshire on my birthday bagged me two lifers. Firstly the Dark-eyed Junco at Hawkhill Enclosure, This little bird has to be a contender for best looking bird that I saw in 2012. While here I also added Raven and Common Crossbill to the year list. Then the Spanish Sparrow at Calshot. On the edge of a housing estate Both birds showing superbly well down to a few feet at times.

A Velvet Scoter  picked out off shore at Titchwell started the month off. Followed by a Red-necked Grebe at Alton Water. Another highlight were the 50+ Snow Buntings that were feeding within a couple of feet at Salthouse car park.
Dipped the Paddyfield Warbler, temperature was -12 when we headed out of Essex and felt even colder when we arrived at Pagham. Five hours later and no sign of the target bird. Left thinking it may well have perished overnight. Managed to add a Shore Lark at Hayling Island. Along with Slav and Black-necked Grebes and Red-breasted Merganser.
I finally managed to get good views of the Bittern at Lee Valley before it departed.

This month saw a return trip to Pagham Harbour and another try for the Paddyfield Warbler, After a 4-5 hour wait it finally showed. Giving some good views before disappearing back into thick cover. On the same day we paid an early visit to Hordle and saw the Rose-coloured Starling. Before heading for home we added a Yellow-Browed Warbler at Worthing. The bird was feeding in a very small line of trees right next to The Swan pub on a busy road. It also used the car park trees of the Parexel  building opposite.
The last day of the month saw us drive to Rhiwderin in Gwent for the Common Yellowthroat. Arriving early the bird showed well after 30-45 minutes of searching. A stunning bird and well worth the long trip. Two stop offs on the way home produced two more lifers, firstly a pair of Long-billed Dowitchers at Meare Heath in Somerset followed by the Lesser Scaup at Cosmeston Lakes.

This was the month that the bogey bird was finally laid to rest. Having dipped eight Hoopoe's in the previous two years. Reached the car park for the Rainham bird, but they wouldn't let us into the reserve as it was closing. Found out about the Chingford bird too late and was too dark to try for it that night, not seen again in the morning. The Canvey bird missed by literally minutes. We reached the car park and were shown photo's of the bird that had just been taken. I finally managed to get great views of the bird at Horsey. It didn't disappoint and was well worth the wait.

May saw another trip to South Wales, with a long weekend spent at Skomer Island and Dinas RSPB reserve. A trip here is always special. Even with no Short-eared Owls seen on the island and a really rough return crossing on the Dale Princess. An added bonus this year was four Glossy Ibis at Martin Sands.
 Dinas is one of my favourite places of any we visit. Dippers, Wood Warblers, Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers and Tree Pipits, not to mention Red Kites and Raven. Just a very special place.
This year it was over shadowed by the three day trip we made to Scotland. My first ever visit to Scotland, it will not be my last. White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Crested Tit, Black and Red Grouse, Basking Shark and Otters. Stunning birds in stunning scenery. Even missing Capercaille by seconds didn't dampen the trip. It just makes us more determined to get back up there, and as soon as possible.

June started with a visit much closer to home, when we went to Rainham hoping to see or at least hear the Marsh Warbler. As it turned out we managed both. Brief but good views of the bird were followed by a nice bit of song. Purple Heron was seen for the third year running at Dungeness.
A trip to Herts and the River Colne for a  Little Bittern was another highlight. West Stow produced my first "Roding" Woodcocks and I also managed to hear a "Churring" Nightjar. Fantastic!

A quiet month was brightened up by news of a Red-backed Shrike at Lake Farm Country Park. A dull overcast morning, but we managed to avoid the rain and get good views of the bird for the best part of two hours. On route to Dungeness we take a detour to Ashford in Kent and we are watching an unusual sight. An Eagle Owl roosting on top of the Charter House building. Escape or not it's still a cracking bird.

Staying closer to home for much of the month, A visit to Wallasea Island got me several calling Quails. Wanstead produced my second Wryneck. Having got my first at Wanstead almost two years previously.
A visit to Sheringham in Norfolk saw me connect with my second Alpine Swift. Thinking it might take a bit to find the site where it was being seen, we just got out of the car, walked round the corner and there it was flying around with Common Swifts.
The month finished off with another lifer. A Long-tailed Skua down at Languard.

Two Mega's were added this month. The first saw another visit to Rainham with news of a Baillons Crake being found. A big thank you goes to Howard and his team for opening early so that many birders could have the chance to enjoy the bird including us. The other bird was further away. A trip to Lodmoor in Dorset for the Short-billed Dowitcher. Brief views were had of the Baillons, but the Dowitcher showed much better, It was showing well from the moment we arrived. It was still showing well when we left.

This was the only month I didn't add a lifer to my list this year. In fact it only produced one year tick. A single Waxwing at Languard in the pouring rain.
Missed a couple of  good birds, Olive-backed Pipit, Red-flanked Bluetail due to work. Wasn't happy!

Another slow month. But a very showy Desert Wheatear at Abberton brightened the month up. A bonus Jack Snipe was added to the year list from a visit to Cudmore Grove. A walk out to the point at the same location found the single Snow Bunting. It took a bit of a search but was very confiding when we did find it.

A trip to Eyebrook Reservoir in Leicestershire at the start of the month where we eventually managed to add a Ring-necked Duck to the life list after trawling through hundreds of Tuftie's.
On the 14th in what was foul conditions, we battled through the driving rain and horrendous traffic to visit The Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire. A big thank you to LGRE for manning the gate and sorting out the permits, without him we would not have been able to enter the reservoir. After Scrambling up the grass banks, we found the bird showing down to a few feet. Even the constant heavy rain didn't take anything away from seeing this bird. 
Another big highlight of the year was a trip to Aldeburgh in Suffolk for the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll. A cracking bird that showed down to a couple of feet at times.

A great years birding, visiting some fantastic places and seeing some very special birds.

Having started listing three years ago and travelling further afield in the last two I managed to add 30 lifers to my list this year. It's still relatively small, but that means there's still plenty of new birds out there to see.

Scotland has to be and was the stand out trip, as I have already said, great birds, great scenery. But the best bird is far to difficult to say. There were just so many to choose from that it is impossible to pick. So I'm not going to.

A special thank you has to go to Brian, without whom I wouldn't have seen half of the birds that I did see this year. Not only because he drives us nearly everywhere we go, but because he manages to get us to the sites and on the target birds even with limited or no directions. 
Thanks also to dad for his company and his driving trips when Brian is not available, and also for providing many comedy moments throughout the year.

Happy New Year to one and all.

Here's to 2013. 

Wallasea Island, Birds of Prey

Early afternoon trip to Wallasea Island today, hoping for Hen Harriers particularly a male. 

As we approached the track there were a couple of Little Egrets close to the side of the road.

Standing up on the grass bank looking out across the farmland, the wind is biting into our faces and it feels much colder than the temperatures suggest.
A Marsh Harrier is the first bird spotted flying low along the far bank. There's Brent Geese and Redshank on the estuary.
There's a Peregrine perched low to the ground in front of the far bank, and it remains there for over an hour. Kestrels are seen frequently.
A couple of smart looking Stonechats appear in front of us and there's also good numbers of Corn Buntings around.
The light is starting to fade so we drive back along the track and park  up near a gate overlooking the farmland.
A Barn Owl appears below the bank and starts to quarter the fields. Great views are had as it approaches closer to us.
A Peregrine flies into view and passes overhead, it looks quite small so possibly a male bird. We watch as it seems to try to attack a crow. the crow dives down into a tree and the Peregrine continues along the power lines and off into the distance.
The last bird of the day was a very brief sighting of a Short Eared Owl, it came up from a nearby ditch but wasn't in the air long and dropped down out of view. 
With nothing planned for tomorrow it's the last trip of 2012. Fitting then that the year ends with us watching owls. They are my favoured group of birds and I never tire of watching them.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Richardson's Canada Goose, Norfolk

With a short dry spell forecast for today, we meet at 6am and after 120 miles and two hours, we are pulling into the Cley Coastguards Beach car park.
Upon leaving the car the first bird we see is a dead one, In the form of a Shag. It's on the floor of the Coastguards Hut in the car park.
How it got there or how it died is a mystery, but it's a sad sight.
The brief sea watch only produces small flocks of geese and ducks plus a single diver.
From here we head for Kelling, and after taking the public footpath we reach the top of the hill and are looking over Kelling Meadows.

Richardson's Canada Goose

There's a group of 40-50 Canada Geese and lesser numbers of Brent Geese in the second field, amongst them is the target bird. A Richardson's Canada Goose, even from this distance it's quite obviously smaller than the other Canadian Geese, especially when it wanders in front of them.
Keen to get better views we drive round to Salthouse and take the shingle path back towards Kelling. There's already a few birders scoping the geese when we arrive but they are on the opposite side of the field to us. With the scopes trained on the geese, the Richardson's is quickly re-found and good views are had.
Returning to the car park we grab a quick coffee from the mobile cafe and take a few photos of the Turnstones that are feeding on the beach shingle.

Leaving Salthouse we head for Stiffkey, only to re-find the Richardson's Goose has relocated to the field North of the duck pond.
Back in the car, but again we don't get far when Brian spots the Sacred Ibis in a field with a few Mute Swans and more Canada Geese.
As we park the car and cross the road we are just in time to see the Ibis fly across the field and land close to the ditch.

Sacred Ibis

Good scopes views and a couple of distantly poor photos later and we again head off towards Stiffkey. But not before we see a Bittern flying across the tops of the reeds it drops down and out of sight.
At Stiffkey there are Curlew, Redshank and Little Egrets in good numbers. Then two Ringtail Hen Harriers appear, one flies fast and low in front of us, it turns into the wind, hovers and drops down onto an unfortunate Redshank.

Little Egret

Before leaving we have several more views of ringtail Hen Harriers, and a single Marsh harrier is seen hunting.
Onto Holkham, where there are large numbers of Pink-footed Geese along with smaller numbers of Brent and Greylags. There's no sign of any White-fronted Geese in any of the fields which is disappointing.
On the way home, we make a short detour to try for a sighting of a Golden Pheasant. Reports suggest that sightings from this location have been much scarcer this year, and it's not a surprise when we fail to see any.  

Friday 21 December 2012

Abbotts Hall Farm & Bradwell Bird Observatory

The end of the world is neigh, in fact it's today according to some.

With that in mind we decide to stay local, first stop is Layer Breton Causeway at Abberton.
Two drake Goldeneye are seen, one of which is seen displaying. There's also a female seen from the other side of the road.
As Brian scopes the other side of the causeway he picks out two drake Smew along the back edge just in front of the reeds. They are not in view long and disappear down one of the channels.
Water levels are high, but there's still a couple of islands for waders to roost and feed on. A couple of Snipe are found among the Lapwings. Shortly afterwards the birds are flushed and when they return a total of thirteen Snipe are found.
The sun tries to break through the thick cloud cover but no sooner had it appeared it was back behind the clouds once more.
From here it's a short drive to Abbotts Hall Farm . 
We take the main path from the car park and head towards the Wetlands Hide. The trees and grass edges along the path hold impressive numbers of mixed finches and tits. Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Linnet, plus Great and Blue Tits are all seen in good numbers. No amount of scanning through the flocks can produce any Bramblings though.
Further along the track there's Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings feeding in the hedgerows and on the ground.
Reaching the hide and looking out over the New Wetlands, A Little Egret takes flight and there's plenty of Pintail, Wigeon and Teal seen. As well as Redshank and several Curlew.
Marsh Harriers are reguarly seen quartering the surrounding fields, all of which were females. 5-6 birds are seen before we leave for the car park.
This is a first visit to this site for all of us and we would have liked to of explored it in greater depth, but with time short we make our way back to the car.

Next stop is Bradwell Bird Observatory.

The Chapel of St Peter Ad Murum
Walking along the path the first birds seen and heard are Corn Buntings. 
At the end of the track stands The Chapel of St Peter Ad Murum. From a distance it's looks more like a farm building.
The Chapel has stood here since 654AD, built on the ruins of the abandoned Roman Shore Fort of Othona.
Arriving home I wasn't surprised to find that the chapel had for many years been used as a cow barn. 
That was until 1921 when it was re-consecrated and opened to the public.
It's said to be England's oldest church still in existence. Not only that but it's been reported to be haunted by ghostly silent figures that walk around inside the chapel. It's said that a regular lonely man had died there while praying.

Enough of the history and on to the observatory.

The feeders around the observatory were visited by good numbers of birds. Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Great and Blue Tits all present with a couple of Coal Tits also seen. 
Marsh Tit

There's a single Marsh Tit seen regularly visiting the feeders and according to the Essex Birdwatching Society it's a long staying bird that they have called "Brian"!

In the trees and surrounding areas there's Mistle Thrush, Curlew, Little Egret and Marsh Harriers seen.
Also seen from here were impressive flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plovers along with Brent Geese.

A very enjoyable day spent in the home county today, and a couple of new sites visited that will certainly warrant another visit at some point in the future.

I've been in bigger hides.

The only disappointment today was not seeing any Hen Harriers.

On the bright side though the world didn't end. 

Sunday 16 December 2012

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Aldeburgh Suffolk

After making the trip to Berkshire yesterday in what was foul weather conditions to bag the Buff-bellied Pipit, We thought it was about time we made the trip to Aldeburgh in Suffolk to take a look at another real mega rarity.

Having spent the 1st day of 2012 watching Lesser, Mealy and  Coues' Arctic Redpolls all feeding in the same tree just outside the reserve centre at Titchwell, a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll is not what I thought I would be ending the year watching.

Two hours after setting off we are pulling into the badly pot holed beach car park. Parking the car we notice the assembled group of birders all walking back up the beach heading towards us.
Obviously the bird had flown our way and is confirmed by the birders as they head past. I'm the last to exit the car and as I shut the door I spot the bird flying back past the birders and dropping down onto a small patch of vegetation close to me.
We spend the next two hours watching this cracking little bird. The sun is trying it's best to break through but it's mainly hidden behind clouds and only makes brief appearances before being hidden again.

Then without warning the bird is off, heading back down the beach swiftly followed by the assembled birders. It's not flown far and is quickly found again. 
Normally we're used to distant scope views of most rarities when they turn up, but the Buff-bellied Pipit and this little cracker show to within a few feet.
Another 30 minutes of it feeding and us watching and it's off. This time it heads out towards the sea and then turns sharply back in land and heads across the car park and off into the adjoining fields.
At this point we decide to head off and try to find the recently reported Bean Geese at North Warren. Scanning the fields we found what looks to be Bean Geese way over in the far corner close to some Greylags. But at this distance and with the geese tucked right up in the far corner we can't get good enough views to confirm it.

It's onto Minsmere, which turns out to be very quiet today.
No sign of the Waxwings around the North bushes, so have to make do with sightings of Bullfinch, Coal and Marsh Tit and Fieldfares instead.
There wasn't much happening out at sea, and even less happening on the reserve.

A quick stop for food and it's back for another look at the Hornemann's.
By now it's back on the beach feeding and the gathered group of birders has grown in numbers from early this morning.
Another session of watching it until it takes flight and we decide to take that as a sign to make for home.

Friday 14 December 2012

Buff-bellied Pipit, Berkshire

Breaking news of a rare American vagrant found at the Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire sees us make the trip today. A first for the county and also for the London recording area.
Although the bird was first seen on Wednesday afternoon it wasn't identified until Thursday after it was  relocated. 
Buff-bellied Pipit
The day started with conflicting messages as regard to site access. Firstly being reported that permits were available, then that they weren't, and then that they were.
With no permit for this reservoir we were undecided whether to try for it today or wait until tomorrow when permits would be available.
A phone call to Brian, who it turns out is already working around the Watford area, makes our minds up and we set off for the meeting place.
From here it's another 15 miles to the reservoir. While on route we get news that no more permits would be available today.
We are too close now not to try our luck. We arrive to find LGRE sitting in his car at the main gates.
"Have you got a permit" We say no and think there's going to be no entry for us.
Instead he says "Pull up over there and we'll sort you out with some". He informs us where the bird has been showing and that we won't be needing a scope to view it. It's about a mile walk away.
We set off and in driving rain climb the grass bank to the concrete wall surrounding the reservoir.

The Pier
There's plenty of happy faces passing us even in these foul conditions.

Walking pass the pier we stop about fifty yards before the next lifebuoy. We get straight on the bird as it's seen feeding along the waters edge.
The bird is constantly on the move feeding and begins to walk closer and closer towards us, until it is showing down to a couple of meters and less.
We leave drenched but very happy.

A big thanks has to go to LGRE who manned the gate today for a good few hours, allowing us and many others the opportunity to see the bird.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Garden Visitor: A Squirrel with some style

After some of the feeders were re-filled today I sat back and waited for the birds to make an appearance.
Great and Blue Tits turn up in good numbers and a rare appearance from a single Long-tailed Tit also shows at the feeders. A single Lesser Redpoll happily feeds on the Niger and Magpies as usual turn up along with Jackdaw and Starlings.

Mopping up the seed from below the feeders are Chaffinch, Dunnock, Blackbird and Woodpigeon and Collared Dove.

Then this character turns up and shows them how to do it.

They are not always a welcome sight at peoples feeders, but he's well worth it just for the entertainment.
Even though he's gone straight for the sunflower hearts.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Bramfield Church, Hawfinches

The previous two days have seen reports of Hawfinches being present at Bramfield Church in Hertfordshire.
Having missed them earlier in the year on two occasions I was keen for a visit. Dad had never seen a Hawfinch before and also needing one more tick for his 250th of the year is not only keen but desperate to go.

A mix up on my part with the church on Google sees us arrive at the wrong church. Brian quickly finds the right one and we are walking around the cricket pitch heading for the church gate.
A Barn Owl flies low along the hedges, It lands briefly on a fence post but is quickly mobbed by numerous Magpies forcing it to head across the next field and out of view. 
It's seen again shortly afterwards when it flies through the hedges and heads off along the roadside.
It's shortly after 8am when we get the first sighting of Hawfinch. Five birds fly into the tall poplars and after confirming that they are Hawfinch I'm running down the road trying to find dad who's gone walkabout.
Luckily the birds stay put long enough for him to get good views and add another lifer and his 250th year tick. Congratulations dad.
The birds leave the poplars and head for the yew tree at the back of the church. Again good views are had but the poor light and the distance makes for poor photos.
We stay for around five hours and are surprised by how many people arrive in that time. Fifty plus people come and go including among them one Lee Evans.
Best views of the Hawfinches were when they left the church grounds and headed across the road into The Old Rectory gardens. Giving superb scope views.


Leaving Bramfield we head for Amwell Nature Reserve. At the viewpoint, there's a redhead Smew found and a few Goldeneye. At Tumbling Bay the 1st winter male Scaup is quickly found. It spends most of it's time while we were there sleeping. 
A stunning male Smew is found along with another redhead at the back of the island.

Shame the weather stayed overcast throughout the morning, and this coupled with the birds being too distant made for poor photo's.
But it's more about seeing the birds for me, if I can get a photo it's a nice bonus.

The scope views more than made up for the poor photo opportunities.

1st winter drake Scaup

Friday 7 December 2012

Lee Valley

A late morning visit to Lee Valley today, After waiting for the the early rain to clear I arrived at Hooks Marsh car park at around 11am.

Taking the bridge that crosses Seventy Acres Lake and Hooks Marsh Lake there's no sign of the Smew that were reported from Seventy Acres Lake yesterday.
They may well have relocated to Hooks Marsh Lake which has been a good place to find this species in recent years.
I head across the River Lee and take a walk round North Met Pit. There's no sign of any Goosanders here yet, But I do find a single Goosander tucked in with a group of Tufted Ducks on Ashley Pit.

Goldcrests are seen in good numbers, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drops in while making my way round to Holyfield Weir. 
While scanning the lake and weir area a Kingfisher zips across the water and heads towards me and lands close by. 

At the Bittern hide there's no sign of any Bitterns, But a Water Rail makes a brief appearance.
After an hour I'm thinking about moving on, when the hide door opens and Brian walks in.

Another hour or so and there's still no sign of a Bittern, but Water Rails are seen several times as 1-2 birds are seen crossing the channels or feeding in the channels.
Grand Weir Hide
Brian gets a brief view of a Kingfisher as it crosses from the far bank to the near bank.

Time to head for home and plan tomorrow's outing.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Waxwings and Mandarins

Left the house this morning around 7.30am, a quick drive to Albert road Buckhurst Hill to check if any Waxwings had stayed overnight.

No sign of any as I approached the junction, so I pull into the old peoples home car park and turn the car around and head back the way I came.
As I'm waiting in line for the lights to change I notice a flock of birds flying into the large poplar tree right on the traffic lights. As I near the tree I can see that they are quite clearly Waxwings.
The light this morning is very poor at this time of the day so I don't hang around for any photos.(Photo used is a shot Brian took this morning) I let dad know that they were still around and a quick phone call to Brian and he's on his way to take a look.
I continue on towards Fisher's Green, but make a quite detour to Strawberry Hill Pond to see if any Mandarin Duck are present.

The pond is partially frozen, but I can already see a single male Mandarin roosting on the island. Making my way round the pond I find another fifteen tucked in along the back edges.
I take a couple of photo's but the light is really poor. Then there's a big splash and the ducks fly in all directions. 
Some idiot dog walker has decided to throw a big stick into the pond, The stick is quickly followed by the dog and I give up and head for the car.
Before reaching the car I add a Nuthatch and a pair of Goldcrests are also seen.

Onto Fisher's Green where it's really quiet. On the walk down to the weir I find another pair of Goldcrests and a small party of Redwings and Fieldfares but little else of note is seen.
A quick stop at the car for a cuppa and I take a wander round to Longlands Hide.
The blue pheasant is feeding at the bottom of the feeders and the squirrels are out in force and seem in control of the feeders.
There's plenty of Chaffinch feeding among the leaf litter, but no sign of any Brambling among them.

View from Grand Weir hide
Maybe next time.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Ring-necked Duck, Eyebrook Reservoir

With Brian staying in London overnight after watching the demolition of the Kiwi's at Twickenham, he's unavailable for today's trip.
Dad takes up the driving duties and it's a 6am start and 100 miles ahead of us.
We arrive at Eyebrook Reservoir in Leicestershire around 8am, having taken a slight detour on route. We find ourselves on the Island side of the reservoir instead of the Plantation side.
Having seen the duck reported yesterday from the plantation side we continue the drive round heading for the small car park. 
Plantation footpath
Fieldfares and Redwings were present in large numbers, and they fly up from the hedgerows as the car approaches them.
Reaching the car park and after negotiating the gate, we are heading off along the plantation footpath. Along the footpath there are large gaps in the trees that allow good scanning opportunities to scan the reservoir.
We stop and scan every flock of duck on the water without any luck, although there are impressive numbers of Goldeneyes present.
We meet a local guy who informs us that he's had good views of the duck earlier in the week but has not seen it so far today. Not what we wanted to hear but we stay upbeat.
We continue on and start to see more and more flocks of Tufted Ducks, stopping and scanning every duck that's viewable we still can't pick out the target bird.
Ring-necked Duck

Dad decides to walk on while I scan the latest flock of ducks in front of me. I pick up a female Goosander drifting along at the back of a flock of Tufties, then as I continue to scan the target bird pops up in the scope.

Quickly calling dad back it's not long before he's on the bird and then it's time to relax and enjoy the bird.
Having now found the bird it's easy to see the differences in the Ring-necked and the Tufted's, Large peaked head, striking white band round the bill, the narrow white line around the base of the bill and the mainly pale grey flank panels.
By the time we left I was picking the bird out best by the obvious white patch at the front of the grey flank panel.
Heading back towards the car, we stop to let the other birders scanning the water where to look for the bird.
They head off happy that the bird is still present and that they have a good starting point now to locate the bird. We are well pleased having bagged the bird and got great views.

From here we make a brief stop at Brigstock Country park, (recently changed it's name to Fermyn Woods Country Park) in search of Hawfinch.
The warden informs us that a birder had reported brief views of a single bird earlier in the day.
We draw a blank on the Hawfinch front, but five Red Kites and a single Common Buzzard are a very nice consolation.
Redwings and Fieldfares are again abundant here. Maybe an earlier visit with less people and dogs might well produce a Hawfinch sighting.
Might well be worth another check when up in this part of the country.

Friday 30 November 2012

Roding Valley Lake and Nature Reserve

Had a nice 2-3 hour stroll round Roding Valley Lake and Nature Reserve with dad this afternoon.

The lake was the starting point and a quick scan produced Wigeon, Pochard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck Gadwall and Mallard.
1st Winter Common Gull
Both Great Crested and Little Grebes were also present along with Mute Swans, Cormorant and Canada Geese.

A walk round the lake added a Great-Spotted Woodpecker busily stripping bark from tree branches. A single Siskin was seen briefly when it flew in to a nearby tree.
Water levels on the lake and along the length of the River Roding were much higher than usual with all the recent rainfall.

Plenty of Jays were seen and a group of Common and Black-headed Gulls were making good use of the flooded fields either for drinking or bathing.

Ring-necked Parakeets were heard but not seen on this occasion. However two Redwings were found feeding at the bottom of the hedge line.
We crossed the river taking the Charlie Moule's Bridge into the Roding Valley Meadows.

Two Goldcrests were heard and quickly located amongst the ivy, a Kestrel flew across and landed briefly in a nearby tree but was quickly moved on by a Carrion Crow.

The walk back was pretty quiet on the whole, but we added a few of the commoner species to the list. With Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch.

Around forty species seen, which was not bad at all. 

Sunday 25 November 2012

Hen Harriers in Kent

Having met Brian at 6.30am we decide to head for Reculver in Kent. With high winds and strong gusts during the night and into the early morning we find the QE II bridge is closed. We take the tunnel and at 6.30am on a Sunday morning there's no delays and we soon knock off the 70 odd miles to reach the pay & display car park below Reculver Towers.

Heading up the slope and past the Towers and Fort we head off towards Coldharbour Lagoon. Birds seen included Turnstones, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Shelduck, Redshank, Curlew, along with large numbers of Brent Geese. Among the commoner species seen are Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtail.
The walk out was cold and very windy, but it was nothing compared to the trudge back towards the car. Having turned round the wind was now directly into our faces and the wind chill effect was very evident.
Reaching the path before the Towers I spot a female Kestrel on the top window ledge. It seems quite content up there and was obviously happy to be shielded from the wind.

We leave Reculver and head for what is our main target of the day. We arrive at Capel Fleet watchpoint at around 11am,  and shortly afterwards pick up the first Marsh harrier. It's quartering the fields below the lime mounds.
While scanning the adjacent fields what looks like a very good candidate for R L Buzzard is found, but we leave not completely convinced, with a pale Common Buzzard not being ruled out.

While waiting for the target bird to hopefully show we have great views of eight Marsh harriers, mainly females but a cracking male bird is seen quartering the fields nearest to us but it's still just out of range for a photo opportunity. 
Along with Marsh Harriers there's also Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel all seen.
Then a target bird appears in the form of a ringtail Hen Harrier. It's a little distant at first as it makes it's way along the hedge line. But it soon drifts closer and gives great views as it turns into the sun.
A second bird is found and it too gives great scope views as it twists and turns in the wind. 

A great couple of hours spent here, Shame we couldn't nail down the id on the possible Rough-Legged or pick up a male Hen harrier.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Desert Wheatear, Abberton Reservoir

Having made the trip to Worthing last Saturday for the male Desert Wheatear, We arrived only to find that the bird had flown the previous evening.
Then on Sunday a female is reported from Abberton, but it's too late to make the trip and with work making it impossible to try for it during the week. 
Brian is more mobile during the week so bags the bird on the Monday before work, and I'm left watching the reports and hoping that the bird will stay put all week.
To my surprise the bird is reported every day right up to friday afternoon. So with Brian down in Norfolk for  the weekend it's just dad and myself who make the trip to Abberton.
An hour after setting off from home we are pulling in behind the workmen's cars just outside the gates of the reserve.
One birder is just about to leave and tells us that the bird has been showing well. Once in the car park we scan the fence posts with no sign of the bird, Then Bingo! the bird appears on a post by the parking bays.

We watch it for a good 15-20 minutes before we are joined by another birder.
The skies are heavy with cloud and it's not long before the rain starts to fall so we decide to head onto Cudmore Grove CP.

First stop is the pool just beyond the bird hide, We get good views of Black-tailed Godwits, Teal, Wigeon and there's high numbers of Common Snipe present.
While scanning the snipe I find a Jack Snipe feeding along a narrow strip of mud. We got Jack Snipe here last year while watching the Grey phalarope that was present, and it's a nice year tick for this year also.
Snow Bunting
From here it's off down the grass track and on towards Stone Point. 
Brent Geese are feeding in large numbers in the fields, with a c600 birds. There's a single pale-bellied bird seen among them.
At the point we find a single Snow Bunting among the shingle and 2-3 Rock Pipits along with a couple of Meadow Pipits.
There's large numbers of Golden Plovers feeding on the mudflats along with Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Knot, Curlew, Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwits.

With the skies showing signs of clearing we head back to Abberton hoping to grab a couple of shots of the Desert Wheatear.
On arrival the car park is packed and the bird is showing superbly well. While we are there the bird spends all it's time on the tarmac and approaches ridiculously  close when someone throws down a few mealworms.

One guy turns up and asks if the bird is showing, only to be told it's two feet in front of him. Obviously not close enough for everyone.

We head for home very happy.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Languard produces a Waxwing

Morning start at Holland Haven today.
There had been reports of 1-2 Long-eared Owls roosting at this site throughout much of last week.
On arrival we meet one of the regular patch workers, who gives us some good directions as to where we should be looking for the L.E.O.
After a good scan of the bushes there's no owl to be found. A good view of the resident Little Owl in it's usual tree is a consolation as is a Lesser Redpoll feeding close by on thistle heads.
A Sparrowhawk puts the pigeons up and gives good views as it flies overhead. The bushes around this area hold large numbers of Blackbirds. They seem to be everywhere I look. A Green Woodpecker lands on a telegraph pole and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flies across heading for nearby trees. Redwings and Fieldfares are seen in good numbers.
Further along the track a Goldcrest is seen and then a Grey Wagtail is seen on the roof of one of the containers.

From here it's off to Languard and a wander along the perimeter of the observatory. 
As with Holland Haven large numbers of Blackbirds are seen. The ringing teams must have been kept busy just with this species being caught.
A Firecrest is found in the trees above the mist nets,  There's a Goldcrest seen in the beach side bushes and then dad calls me over to have a look at a bird he's found.
It's quickly found to be a Waxwing and dad is not only happy to have found it but also to add it to his year list.
I also need it for the year, having missed this species at the start of the year. It's a single bird and it's busy feeding on blackberries.
Dad is the only one who had braved taking the camera with him in the constant drizzly rain, so he tries to get a record shot of the bird (one of which is on the right), while myself and Brian head for the comfort of the car.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Great White Egret, Dungeness

Spent a very nice and relaxing few  hours at Dungeness today.
Great White Egret
Started off at the observatory and a wander round the moat area. Plenty of Chiffchaffs seen around this area and a handful of Goldcrests among them.
A Firecrest pops up right in front of dad as he tries to take some photos of the Chiffchaffs. It gives good but brief views.
There's large numbers of Swallows overhead with smaller numbers of House Martins also seen.
Brian having returned from his brief sea watch picks up a female Ring Ouzel in the trapping area, after receiving his phone call we quickly join him and get great views as it sits up on one of the small bushes.
A check of the lighthouse gardens area reveals a female Black Redstart, and the Glaucous Gull is quickly spotted among a small group of Herring, Great Black-backed and lesser Black-backed Gulls. Theres also a Yellow-legged Gull found within this group.
Little Egret
ARC pit is the next stop and Brian finds a Little Stint feeding on one of the small islands, There's large numbers of Golden Plovers and Lapwings present and a female Goldeneye and an eclipse Pintail are spotted.
Crossing the road and heading towards the reserve , We stop to view a feeding party of Tree Sparrows, which is briefly interrupted when a Sparrowhawk tries it's luck at taking one of them.
A Marsh Harrier is seen quartering the fields and is added to the day list.
Reaching the reserve we don't take long to pick up one of the three Great White Egrets reported from here.

After it initially takes off and lands on a distant island, it returns quickly to give great views.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Elmley Marshes, Harris Hawk

A morning visit to Kent today, and first stop is Elmley Marshes.
Pulling off the road and making our way along the track, we flush a female Marsh harrier from the grass quite close to the car.
Scanning the fence posts as we head towards the car park, produces a very smart looking Merlin. We watch it until it takes flight and heads low and fast away to the West.
We reach the car park and head off down the track, past the gate to the orchard area. Here I spend the next hour trying to locate the Long-eared owl that was showing well the previous week.
But after scanning every tree, bush and any other piece of likely looking habitat I have to admit defeat and head back to the car park with only 20+ Curlews to show for it.
A scan of the fields behind the toilet block produces plenty of Golden Plovers, Lapwing, Canada and Greylag Geese, along with good numbers of Teal and a single Wigeon is found.
A further scan picks out another Merlin and shortly afterwards it's joined by a second bird. 
Harris hawk

A brief break in the cloud and a spell of brighter weather sees House Martins appear in big numbers. There's also 4-5 Chiffchaffs feeding in the nearby bushes.

Heading back down the track we flush a Kestrel and then a Marsh harrier from the grass close by.Two Buzzards are seen perched on fence posts, the first is a Common Buzzard, with  the other bird looking more interesting and a good candidate for Rough-Legged.
At the end of the track, we spot a large bird perched on a telegraph pole. First thoughts are it's another  Buzzard, but with bins now trained on the bird we are surprised to find it's a Harris Hawk.
Even though it's an escape, it's still a cracking bird and we watch it for 15-20 minutes before it is mobbed  by a Kestrel.
It decides to head further out into the fields and takes off and then lands on a fence post. Shortly afterwards it takes off again and heads low along the ditch and is lost to view.

From here we head for Capel Fleet and Harty Marshes. There's good numbers of Red-legged Partridge seen in the surrounding fields, but there was to be quite a few less after having reached Capel Fleet we watched a shoot taking place on the top fields, where plenty of birds were being flushed and then blasted out of the air.

At Harty Marshes we watch another three Marsh harriers and a single Buzzard scanning the surrounding area for a meal. There's also large numbers of Knot and Golden Plover present along the waters edge. 50+ Shelduck take to the air and numerous Little Egrets are also counted.

The weather stays the same for much of the time, being grey and overcast with short brighter sunny intervals.

Another very enjoyable few hours spent watching some great birds.