Monday 27 August 2012

Landguard Point and Abberton Reservoir

I meet Brian at 6.30am and not having any fixed sites in mind, We decide to head for Languard Point in Suffolk.
After an hour and a half, we arrive at the car park and set off towards the observatory. Having never been to this site before, I can see why it is good for attracting migrants.
Languard is ideally placed to receive any migrants coming in off the North Sea, Beyond the shingle, there are plenty of areas of bramble and Elder for any birds to find shelter and food. On the walk, Linnets are numerous, with plenty of juveniles on show. Heading past the small car park we find two very smart looking Lesser Whitethroats, along with a juvenile Common Whitethroat.
With a recent report of a Spanish Sparrow in the area, we check the flocks of House Sparrows, But it's not seen today.
A brief seawatch produces four Common Terns a handful of Gannets Lesser Black-backed, Herring, and Black-headed Gulls several Guillemots, and two close fly-by Bar-tailed Godwits.
On the shingle foreshore, two Wheatears are spotted and three Meadow Pipits are close by. 
Although it's been an enjoyable morning we have little to show for it bird wise, This changes when a Long-tailed Skua appears distantly out at sea, Brian quickly gets the scope on it and follows it as it approaches closer to the shore, until it's so close we only need our bins to follow it. It flies past and heads towards the docks.
Another report later in the day from Wakering Stairs of a single Long-tailed Skua is presumably the same bird.
It's a lifer for myself and Brian and we celebrate with a coffee before heading back towards the car.

From here it's a stop off at Abberton and Layer Breton causeway hoping for a Black Tern. As soon as we leave the car a female Red Crested Pochard is spotted close by. With its wings heavily clipped. Crossing the road I spot the three Red Breasted Geese that are reported from here quite often.
Scanning the far banks there are a couple of Green Sandpipers and a single Common Sandpiper seen feeding along the water's edge. A further scan reveals at least double figures of Ruff.
A Yellow Wagtail is seen on the concrete bank and Brian picks out a distant female Marsh Harrier perched in a tree at the far side of the reservoir.

Again there are no Black Terns seen, But the Skua is ample consolation.

Red Crested pochard
Red Breasted Goose

Sunday 26 August 2012

Wanstead Wryneck, revisited

Having tried and failed to connect with the Wryneck at Wanstead Flats yesterday, Dad talks Brian into having another go for it today.
We meet up at 6.30 and with the travel chaos of yesterday gone, It's a short and straight forward journey.
Arriving shortly before 7 to find a couple of locals already on site. "No sign of it so far" was the answer to the normal birder question.
But with the habitat looking good for it and the heavy rain of yesterday afternoon and early evening we are hopeful that it's still present.
The main area of focus is the same as yesterday a tall Hawthorn bush and the surrounding scrub.
After two hours of scanning there's still no sign of the Wryneck, But there's plenty of other bird activity to keep us occupied. The tall Hawthorn bush seems to attract plenty of birds. The pick of these being a very smart looking Redstart. 
Add to this several Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Garden Warbler, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Blackcap, Blue and Great Tit, Dunnock and Robin all seen in this same bush and it's understandable why it's the main area of focus.
We give it another half an hour and decide to make our way round to the other side and scan from there. We get only twenty yards along the path when the shout goes up. Wryneck right hand side of bush. Running back I manage to get my bins on the bird and then grab a quick look through another birders scope. 
I have time to set my scope up and at one point I have Wryneck and Redstart in the same scope view. 
The Wryneck doesn't stay in the bush for long, But Brian re-locates it on the path and then watches as it flies into a small tree a short distance away.
Brian rings to tell me he has it, and I quickly tell the other birders where the bird has flown. It's not long before all present are back on the bird and getting great views again.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Patch Work and a dipped Wryneck

With the forecast of rain for most of the day, I decide to hit the patch early.
Arriving at Cornmill Meadows at 5.30am, I'm pleased to be walking towards the hide without any sign of rain.
The view from the hide is disappointing though with only Canada and Greylag Geese, lapwing and Moorhens present.
Next stop is the farms. Where there's a nice flock of Goldfinch in the trees near the cafe. Down by the farms there's a couple of Yellowhammers in the hedgerows along the edge of the ditch.
There's a large flock of geese in the surrounding fields, But apart from the Canada and Greylags the only other geese among them are nine Egyptian Geese.
Further along the footpath I locate a Whitethroat and then another two join it.

The rain starts to fall as I make my way towards the Grand Weir hide, Stopping on route to check out the goose fields for anything unusual.
The rain starts to get heavy so I make for the hide and a scan of the weir and Holyfield Lake. Again it's just the usual birds present, But with the rain still falling steadily I stay longer than I normally would.
This proves well worthwhile, for as I am watching a Long-tailed Tit flock numbering at least twelve birds, and two smartly plummaged Willow Warblers, I catch sight of a bird dropping in on the top of the weir wall. 
I Quickly get the bins on it to add Common Sandpiper to my patch year list. It's a long overdue bird and a very welcome one.
On the return walk to the car I bump into Neville and he tells me of a Wryneck that has been found at Wanstead Flats.
It's a quick trip home, and dad and I are heading for Wanstead. On route we pick up Rob and after a fair bit of trouble finding the exact location we finally reach the site, only to be told that it was last seen ten minutes ago.
Some two hours later we still have not had any sight of the bird, So we decide to call time on it and head for home.
Only for the bird to be reported as showing well as soon as we walk through the door.

I'll just have to be satisfied with the Common Sandpiper for the patch. 

Sunday 19 August 2012

Birdfair: Rutland Water

Today we are off on our annual trip to the Birdfair at Rutland Water.
Leaving at 6am and with the Birdfair not opening until 9am it gives us ample time to drive to Gamlingay  in Cambridge and scan the ploughed fields for any sign of the Dotterel that was reported for most of the previous day.
Unfortunately after an hour or so of scanning there is no sign of the bird, So it's off to Rutland.
Reed Warbler
Pulling in to the red car park just before 9am, we join the queue waiting to enter the fair. We choose the credit card line as it's much shorter and turns out to be a good move as we are quickly getting our tickets and having them scanned.
First stop is the BTO bird ringing tent, and even this early it draws the crowds.
Normally it's common birds that are pulled from the bags, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin. Today there are also Chiffchaff and Reed Warblers being caught. (last year saw a Nightingale ringed during one of the ringing sessions). It's fascinating to see these birds up close.
The tiny Chiffchaff weighing 4.6 grams on the scales is ringed and released. Next bird through the ringing process is a Reed Warbler. To think some of these birds being ringed today will shortly be making their way to Africa.

Next stop is the telescope and binocular stands. I make my way to the Swarovski stand and check out the new ATX 95 scope. It's an impressive piece of kit.
I like the new positioning of the zoom ring alongside the focusing wheel and I'm impressed with the new SLR camera adapter.
While testing the scope out Brian picks up an Osprey flying back towards the nest carrying a fish, It's quite distant but through the new scope it's very bright and sharp.
If you wanted to use the new camera adapter on the ATM 80HD (my current scope) you can but you would be unable to see the zoom degrees on the zoom wheel, as the collar of the adapter fits over this.

A part of dad's day at the Birdfair is celeb spotting, and he's quick to spot Jonathan Scott and Mike Dilger near the Swarovski tents.
By the end of the day he's either seen, spoken or had his photo taken with quite a few. The list includes Bill Oddie, Johnny Kingdom, Charlie Hamilton James and Mark Carwardine.

It's getting seriously hot inside the marques now so there's only one place to head for in these circumstances and that's the beer tent and some liquid refreshment at the food court.

By 3pm we have managed to check out every marque at the show, seen some great new products, some fantastic sculptures, paintings and photographs. The ability of these people to produce this level of artwork is amazing to see.

It's been another great day and there's still time to have a drive round to a nearby bridge for a quick look at the nesting Ospreys. There's two birds on show when we arrive.  Both are perched close to the nest site and give great views through the scope.

Stopping here also makes the long walk to the hide from the visitor centre unnecessary as the views are just as close from the bridge.
A drive round the outer edges of the reservoir trying to locate any Black Terns proves fruitless but we see even more of the site than we normally would, and it's packed with people enjoying the weekend sunshine.


Friday 17 August 2012

Wallasea Island: Quail & Corn Buntings

Arriving home around 4.15pm, I'm about to change and relax before dinner when the phone rings. It's Brian and he's asking if I want to try for Quail at Wallasea Island.
Of course I do and the same goes for dad. Brian has already ticked Quail a couple of days earlier and so knows the route.
Corn Bunting
It's roughly 40 miles from home and takes around an hour to reach the site. Reaching the car park the first birds seen are Corn Buntings. There are large numbers flying around the car park and surrounding areas.
On Tuesday Brian heard Quail from the car park soon after stepping out of the car, Tonight we are not quite so lucky.
We meet a couple who have walked to the far end of the field, and they say that they have not heard any Quail as yet.
Undeterred we make our way to the far end and listen for any sound. After a few minutes of waiting I hear my first ever Quail.
We wave to the couple who have now reached the car park and the guy returns hoping to hear it for himself. He's greeted with silence, and for another ten minutes it remains silent apart from the wind which is making it a little more difficult to hear the birds.
Then a Quail starts to utter it's unmistakable "wet-me-lips" call. It's surprisingly loud above the noise of the wind. It utters it's call in three and four call bursts and then falls silent again.
We manage to hear at least three birds calling while at Wallasea.
Corn Buntings are abundant here, along with sightings of Whitethroat, Linnet, Grey Wagtail, Kestrel and Marsh Harrier it's been a good little session.
Shortly after leaving Wallasea and heading for home we spot a Hobby, which lands in a tree. There's also a family party of Red-legged Partridge in the same field.
Arriving home around 9pm I've added Quail to my life and year lists.

Next stop will be the Birdfair at Rutland Water on Saturday.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Arctic Tern, King George V Reservoir

Having checked the latest bird sightings from work, and noting Black Terns reported from King George V Reservoir the previous day I decide to take the short drive to Chingford and see if there's any still present.
Arctic Tern
Fifteen minutes from leaving home I'm in the car park and making my way through the gate and up the slope to view the south basin.
On first sight it looks quiet as it can so often seem at first.
Continuing the walk I stop at the sailing club hut and make use of the bench. There's plenty of Common Tern swooping across the water's surface and a few individuals make use of the buoys.
Scanning the area doesn't produce any Black Terns and it looks like they may have moved on.
Next I scan the jetty's and notice a few of the terns starting to land on them. Closer inspection reveals an Arctic Tern on the jetty with a couple of Common Terns.
I surprisingly still need Arctic Tern for my year list, So although there's no sign of any Black Terns the Arctic is a nice little consolation.
Scanning the near side banks of the reservoir adds three Common Sandpipers and there's large numbers of Pied Wagtails as well.
So a short little trip tonight but a rewarding one with number 237 added for the year.  

Saturday 11 August 2012

Kent Birding: Cliffe Pools & Oare marshes

Today we are heading for Kent. But before we do there's time for a quick stop at Cornmill Meadows and yet another search for the Wood Sandpiper.
Reaching the hide  and scanning the pool it has an all too familiar feel to it. A single Green Sandpiper is found in the far left corner and then a second one appears.
Common Snipe
While scanning the area hoping that the Wood sandpiper might still be present, some idiot decides that he is going to completely ignore the "Wildlife Refuge Keep Out" signs and the wire fence that encloses the whole area and walk straight through the metal gate and make his way right up to the waters edge. Thus flushing anything that may have been there.
The guy had a camera with a long lens, But obviously not long enough. This is the sort of behaviour that gives bird and wildlife photographers a bad name. Thankfully I haven't come across this kind of selfish behaviour very often. 
Ok rant over and off to Kent.

Cliffe Pools is the destination, The track down to the Black Barns is full of pot holes and it's slow going making sure the car stays in one piece.
At the viewing mound there's a couple of Greenshank present and a Spotted Redshank flies in to join them.
There's good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Common Snipe seen and a single Ruff and Golden Plover. An adult Whinchat drops in and perches on a small bush along the edge of the pools.
Brain has a scan along the back edge of the pools and finds a Wood Sandpiper. A really nice find but a bit painful as well as I have tried four times to add this bird to my patch year list at Lee Valley without any luck.
There's a very happy local birder present as he needs the Wood Sand for his year list. 
We drive round to the car park and take the path to Ski Pool. There's plenty of Dunlin here and good numbers of Ringed Plover, in amongst these is a single Little Stint. This is a year tick for all three of us. So everyone is pleased with this find.

Next stop is Oare marshes. It's difficult to find a parking space as the site is really busy. Eventually we manage to park and scan across East Flood.
There are large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Golden Plovers. A Peregrine appears from nowhere and causes mass panic amongst the flocks. It's a fantastic sight as it tries to pluck a meal from the massed flocks. It seems to knock a bird out of the air and follows it down but comes back up without it's prey and moves on.
Turtle Dove
After a tip off from another birder that there's a Turtle Dove in the area, "But it may involve a long walk to find it." we head off hoping to locate it. Walking back up the entrance road Brian spots a dove perched in a bare tree quite close to the road. It's the Turtle Dove and I manage to grab a shot before it flies along the tree line and lands on a telegraph wire.
Returning to East Flood there's another surprise when a Wood Sandpiper is spotted along the reed edges. It moves out into the open water and gives great scope views.
Another year tick added today with the Little Stint and it's time to head for home.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Cornmill Meadows: A dipped Wood Sandpiper

A short trip tonight to Cornmill Meadows after work for another look for the Wood sandpiper.
Having already made a brief visit on Sunday without any luck, Only seeing a single Green Sandpiper and a count of fifteen Lapwings. An added bonus though was the sight of two Kingfishers which flew from the river  onto the fence of the meadows and then back along the river.
Tonight when I reach the hide and peer out through the window it's looking really quiet. Not a single lapwing is present and there's only six Moorhen seen on the first scan.
The second scan reveals a Green Sandpiper feeding in one of the pools and then a second Green Sandpiper appears close by. The meadows stay quiet throughout my visit. 
The walk round the meadows back towards the car produces more butterflies than birds with Red Admiral, Small White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown and Large White seen. 
Along the river there are plenty of Banded Demoiselles. There's also a very nice Common Darter seen.
So just the two Green Sandpipers are present, No sign of the wood Sandpiper. Scanning the meadows from all angles doesn't produce the Wood Sand, So I make do with photographing some resident species.
Common Darter

Saturday 4 August 2012

Alpine Swift, Norfolk

A quick check on the weather and Norfolk is looking likely to be a good location. News of an Alpine Swift still present in the Sheringham area seems like a good starting point.
The two hour drive turns into two and a half hours when we find out the M11 is closed due to an accident. Brian wastes no time in finding the general area and very soon after leaving the car calls the bird as it flies directly over his head.
Alpine Swift
I'd bought the scope with me, Thinking we may well have to be satisfied with distant views of the bird. But it's flying around directly over our heads, So I quickly ditch the scope for the camera and manage to grab a few record shots.
There's Common Swifts in the air with the Alpine, and it gives a great chance to check out the size comparison between the two species. The Alpine looking huge compared to the Common Swift.
Well pleased with bagging the Swift we move on to Cley.
We visit the Swarovski and Dauke hides looking for the Little Stint that was reported the previous day. We have no luck locating it but do see plenty of Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, and Little Ringed Plover. There's also a single Common Sandpiper and four each of Green Sandpiper and Greenshank present. A count of nine Spoonbill are also seen. The Spoonbills were doing what they always seem to be doing. Sleeping or preening. In the adjoining fields there's a flock of thirteen Whimbrel and a single Curlew.
With no sign of the Stint we decide to try our luck at Titchwell. From the first hide we pick out large numbers of Golden Plovers along with plenty of Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits and a single Dunlin.
The second hide produces a smart looking Curlew Sandpiper, plenty more Ruff a single Yellow Wagtail and another six Spoonbills. There's also two Little Gulls present and a Spotted Redshank.
We head for home without adding the Little Stint , But well satisfied with the views of the Alpine Swift earlier in the day.
Another great day birding, having avoided almost all of the rain showers and spending the day at two of Norfolk's top birding locations.