Sunday 31 March 2013

Jack Snipe at Tewin Hertfordshire

Having failed to see Jack Snipe earlier in the year at Rainham, This morning gave me the opportunity to visit a small nature reserve I had never heard of until very recently.
Tewinbury Nature Reserve in Hertfordshire has been reporting Jack Snipe since the 16th March and with it only being 24 miles from home it's time to give it a visit.
Forty minutes after setting off, we are turning off the B1000 into the entrance to the Tewin Bury Farm Hotel. Parking the car in the first car park on the right hand side of the drive. After walking in the wrong direction, we eventually realise that the hide was passed as we drove along the driveway.

The hide is a two tier construction, so we opt for the top tier. Opening the hide windows reveals a small lagoon with reedbeds behind which have channels cut into them.
A quick scan of the area only produces Canada Geese, Little Grebe, Coot, Mallard and Moorhen on the water with Reed Buntings numerous around the fringes.

A scan of the reeds with the scope does the trick, as I pick up a Jack Snipe asleep well hidden within the reeds but only a metre from the front edges.
After a short while it wakes and starts it's bobbing action, giving good views of the bill at the same time. Within the hour that we stayed, the bird never moved more than a foot from the position I first found it in. But it gave good views when it did decide to move and preen itself.
A Kingfisher made a very brief appearance, so brief that I missed it altogether while watching the Jack Snipe through the scope.

It was good to see blue skies overhead at last, and a little bit of sunshine. Lets hope it's the start of some decent weather at last.

Saturday 30 March 2013

Kentish plover, Rye Harbour

With Brian having already made the trip earlier in the week to add the Kentish Plover to his year list, and with him being unavailable today, it's just the two of us who make the 90 mile trip down to Rye Harbour today.
The day starts with grey clouds and heavy skies, driving down the M20 it turns into snow flurries and then nearing Rye the skies clear slightly but there's a fierce biting wind.
We reach the car park on Harbour Road and take the footpath towards Lime Kiln Cottage. This is also an information centre and where the Kentish Plovers had been showing  from most of the time since they were first reported on the 25th.

An hour of scanning the area produces large numbers of Ringed Plovers and Dunlin along with smaller numbers of Avocets, Redshanks, Shelduck and Lapwing but no sign of either of the Kentish Plovers.
With the freezing cold winds and then snow falling we decide to retreat back to the car for a short break. Ten minutes later we are heading back towards the cottage.

View from opposite Lime Kiln Cottage

Still no sign of the Plovers, so we continue on along the footpath and head for the Ternery Pools in search of any Med Gulls.
Reaching the hide a quick scan reveals 100+ Oystercatchers and Sandwich Terns.The Sandwich Terns noisily flying in off the beach onto the shingle islands in front of us.
Scanning the far island two Med Gulls are picked up and the year list moves up by one.
Leaving the hide the pager bleeps into action to announce that the Kentish Plover had been found. We are now the best part of a mile away from the Lime Kiln Cottage, so it's a mad dash back along the footpath with a mixture of jogging and power walking, both telling me how unfit I am.
We make it back to the cottage and are greeted with good news. The bird is still showing and after a heads up as to which area to scan, the plover is found and gives some great views before another snow flurry moves in and we decide to head for the warmth of the car.

Garganey and Whooper Swans at Minsmere

The weather today followed a similar pattern to the rest of the month. Driving down the A12 we had a brillant sunrise, followed by a snow flurry, followed by grey skies and as we pulled into the car park at Dunwich Heath we were met with brighter clearer skies.
Leaving the car, we headed off down one of the tracks looking for Dartford Warblers. At first there's no sight nor sound of any in the area. With only Chaffinch, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits seen. After spotting a herd of Red Deer, we decided to cut across the track trying to stay within a safe distance so as not to spook them. Stepping through the heather I managed to flush a Woodcock, a year tick for dad and myself.
I dropped down among the taller bushes and managed to get a couple of shots of the deer before a walker sent them running.

Brian having wandered off further down the track had heard a Dartford Warbler within a nearby gorse bush. I managed to join him just as the bird flies from behind the bush and lands a short distance away. Getting some great if brief views as it perches on top of the bush. Three birds were seen in the short time we spent here.
Moving on to Minsmere, first stop for me is the feeders outside the reserve centre. The feeders here have become a regular and reliable spot for myself to bag a  Marsh Tit for the year list. Again with a little patience they produced the goods.
After a quick visit to the cafe for a coffee it's onto the reserve. Hearing that there was a pair of Gargeney present the day before, we head straight for Island Mere Hide. After a brief stop on the way to check out a roving tit flock, which held good numbers of Goldcrests we arrived at the hide to find the Garganey still present but mostly obscured and sleeping. Several Marsh Harriers and a Sprawk mobbed by crows entertained us while waiting for the Garganey to become active.

Garganey  (taken by B Anderson)

A slight detour for a check to see if the reported Firecrest is showing proves fruitless. It does produce more sightings of Goldcrest and a Treecreeper. While I'm searching for the Firecrest Brian nips back to check on the Garganey's. The photo above is one of the photo's he managed to get on his return.

At the South Hide, three Whooper Swans (2 adult and a juvenile) are showing well. But a scan of the scrape doesn't produce any Med Gulls, and I managed to miss a year tick in the form of a Caspian Gull.

Whooper Swan

A detour on the way home to Wivenhoe, but it's a no show from the Long-eared Owl. On the estuary there's Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Redshanks and Oystercatchers.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Ring-necked Parakeet

Arriving home from work today, I was met with the sight of a Ring-necked parakeet in the garden perched in a bush waiting to come down to the feeders.
It remained for a few minutes then took flight into the taller trees bordering the end garden.
Shortly afterwards it returned to the feeders and it was joined by a second bird. They took control of the feeders and stayed until they had eaten all they wanted.

Saturday 9 March 2013

A Morning at Dungeness

Dungeness is one of Brian's favourite sites, and one that we tend to head towards if we are struggling for a site to visit.
Arriving around 7.30am we would normally head straight for the beach and a bit of seawatching. But with the mist quite heavy we head instead for the moat.
A walk around the area produces very little of any note. So after an hour or so we decide to make our way towards the beach.
Reaching the hut, we find a local birder is the only other person present. Plenty of Red-throated Divers going through, with greater numbers of Brent Geese. Auks were also moving through in good numbers with mainly Guillemots seen but with some Razorbills also noted within the groups.
Small numbers of ducks were on the move with Gadwall, Wigeon, Shelduck and Pintail all noted along with a single Goosander.
Common Scoter were seen in small groups and among one of these groups two Velvet Scoter were found. Two Sandwich Terns sitting on the prominent yellow buoy were also added for another year tick.
Little Gulls were seen, with twenty birds noted in the time we were there. Two close-in Kittiwakes was another very welcome sight.
A singing Black Redstart was heard and then found on the power station wall, and another year tick was added when dad spotted a Chiffchaff  on the same wall. 
A brief stop at Arc Pit hoping to spot the Firecrest that was present yesterday, only produced Goldcrest. But another three Chiffchaffs were seen.
At the reserve entrance there was the usual but very welcome sight of Tree Sparrows feeding in the garden and Great White Egrets were again present with four birds seen during our visit.
While watching Reed Buntings at the reserve feeders, Tree Sparrows were making brief appearances now and again.


Reed Bunting

Not a bad morning's birding at all.  

Sunday 3 March 2013

Hawfinch, St Andrew Church Bramfield

With Brian heading back down to Thetford this morning in search of the Otters. We decide to stay local and  head for Bramfield in Hertfordshire.
Still needing Hawfinch for my year list and with this area proving productive for this species just before Christmas, we decide to make the 22 mile trip up the A10 and head for ST Andrew Church.
Parking the car just past the church and walking back to the church gates two Hawfinch are spotted immediately. Both are perched in a tree across the road in the Old Rectory gardens.

Photo taken on previous visit

They remain there for around 10-15 minutes and allow great scope views, with plenty of calling and preening taking place.
Allowing a local dog walker to take a look through the scope at the birds, we lose sight of the them as we turn to talk to him and they disappear from view.
It's another 30-40 minutes before another sighting, with a steady flow of birders arriving during this time. I pick up another two birds perched behind the large fir trees again in the Old Rectory gardens. Then a single bird flies across the road and lands briefly in the tall trees in the church grounds before flying back towards the Old Rectory grounds.A brief walk through the church grounds adds Yellowhammer, with three individuals seen in the scrub along the North Western edge of the church.Two Nuthatch are also seen one in the church grounds and one in the trees in the Old Rectory garden, along with Coal Tit and Siskin.

Saturday 2 March 2013

Black Redstart, Rainham

With Brian already on route to Thetford  when I texed him, Dad and myself decide it's a good time to take a trip over to Rainham and have a look for the Black Redstarts.
It's around 17 miles from home and a short trip on the M11 and then A406 to reach Ferry Lane. Pulling in to the parking area, there's already two birders present.
A quick climb up the grass bank and the two birders get us straight on to a male Black Redstart. It spends it's time either perching on the rocks or dropping down among them. It would drop down out of view and then reappear on top of the rocks or a short distance away.

There was no sign of the female that has been seen here recently, but I wasn't complaining as the male is a stunning little bird.
While watching the Redstart a Grey Wagtail is found among the rocks close by. It's a nice little bonus as it's another year tick for us both.

With us both starting to feel the cold, we decide to head onto Coldharbour Lane. Parking in the car park at the far end we start to walk among the salt marsh hoping to find a Jack Snipe. The walk produces several Common Snipe but no Jack Snipe.
A couple of Rock Pipits add a year tick to dad's year list so the walk is not completely fruitless.

At the Stone Barges there's a least two Water Pipits present, and one gives good scope views before flying off. 

A couple of year ticks and an enjoyable mornings birding.