Saturday 29 June 2013

Melodious Warbler, Tiln GP Notts

A Melodious Warbler found at Tiln GP in Nottingham on the 21st, and still present today.
Having arrived home from work yesterday feeling slightly under the weather, and then reading that Brian had already made the trip that morning. Pleased that he'd seen it, I didn't give the bird too much more thought.
So meeting Brian this morning it proves difficult to decide where to head for. Checking the news services before leaving didn't throw up too many ideas. So reaching the motorway turn off at Waltham Abbey, we find ourselves driving round the roundabout still undecided.
After three trips round the roundabout, Brian decides to take the motorway turnoff, and somehow he's heading back towards Nottingham.
Having only made the trip yesterday he knows the route, and 146 miles later we are turning onto Tiln Lane and parking up on the grass verge just past the double metal gates.
It's an easy enough walk straight through the gates, follow the track until you come to the wooden gate that allows access for the fishermen to the lake, then carry on past this gate for c50m.
Leaving Essex at 6am there had been no news on the bird for the entire journey, With this bird normally being reported early most mornings it wasn't looking or feeling to good.
These fears were however quickly forgotten, as we were greeted by a loud burst of song from the Melodious Warbler. The small group of birders present had been hearing it singing regularly, but were finding it harder to pin down it's location.

Shortly afterwards it's spotted in the tallest tree a metre from the top but well tucked in. Within the 2-3 hours spent watching and listening to the bird, it never sat up to give clear views for the camera.
Good views were had through the bins but there always seemed to be some branch or other in the way for the camera.

From here with the weather showing signs of improving, we make the short trip to Wellbeck and stop at the Raptor Watchpoint hoping for a sighting of Honey Buzzard.

New sign added to nearby tree

After 3 hours of scanning we head for home, having had plenty of Common Buzzard sightings, 2-3 distant possible Honey Buzzard sightings and a much more likely looking sighting when one appeared and was quickly mobbed by the local crows. A Goshawk was called, but was not confirmed and a couple of Hobbies were seen hawking.

A new bird added to my life list today, and another pint I need to buy Brian for getting me there.
A small price to pay.
Thanks mate.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Wilson's Phalarope, Yarmouth. Isle Of Wight

Having spent all week hoping that the Roller at Holt in Norfolk would stick around until the weekend, I had   to concede on Friday that it's probably done a bunk.
Since Thursday there had only been one unconfirmed report of the bird, and none on Friday. So Saturday's pre-planned Norfolk trip was off.

Instead Brian's text Friday night reads "fancy Isle of Wight tomorrow?". My reply is always the same, what time are we meeting. 
Dad still getting over the shock of hearing Isle of Wight, and then looking up the mileage and seeing it's not much further than Minsmere, is now a lot keener on the trip.
Saturday morning see's us meeting up at 5am and setting off on the 128 mile drive down the M25, M3 and  M27 motorways heading towards Lymington. Arriving at 7.15 a quick visit to the information centre to book the ferry (£55 return to take the car across)  after boarding the ferry we landed at Yarmouth around 8.30.
The phalarope had been reported using Yarmouth station pond, and after a short drive we turned into Victoria Road and this lead us straight into Station Road. Parking at the bottom of the road, we made our way towards the pond. A quick scan of the closest area and Bingo! straight on the bird. It's in the company of a single Redshank and a small group of Black-tailed Godwits. 

A few quick hand gestures (all of which were polite) to the group of birders on the other side sees them heading our way to view the bird.
One guy informs us that the bird must have just flown in from the estuary as it wasn't present a short while ago. So perfect timing then.

A stunning female summer plumaged Wilson's Phalarope, noticeably larger than Red-necked and Grey. It spent much of it's time feeding among the reeds, emerging every so often to give good views.

Within the group of birders present there were still a few familiar faces present. The faces remembered more for which bird and location we had seen them at, than for any of their names.
Another guy we met David Aitken who is the Assistant Warden at Bempton Cliffs, told us he had driven down last night and missed the last ferry, so had to make do with sleeping in the car. Arriving early morning only to get completely soaked by the early morning downpours.
As we left for the ferry, he was off to buy some dry socks!

There was still just time to have a drive around the island for a quick sightseeing tour for further references, then it's back on the ferry and the journey home ahead of us.

Having missed the Roller , this wasn't a bad consolation!

Thursday 20 June 2013

West Stow, Suffolk, Nightjars and Woodcocks

A text from Brian to say he's heading for the Brecks in search of Nightjars and do I fancy it? My reply is only to ask what time. 
So at 8pm we are heading towards the Brecks, and a spot we visited last year. Arriving shortly after 9pm to find a small group of birders already present.
The weather forecast is looking good for Nightjars and walking along the tracks the area is also looking good for the birds.
Shortly before 9.30pm the first Woodcock is seen. It would be the first of more than  a dozen seen before we leave.
As the light goes, Tawny Owls become vocal, with at least three birds heard from different parts of the forest. Then a Little Owl starts to call, it's my first of the year and it's  very welcome.
A little after 10pm and a Nightjar starts "churring". Several Nightjars are heard from different parts of the forest, but there's no sightings of any birds.
Walking the tracks heading back towards the car, we spot two Nightjars close by. Wing clapping as they fly across our path.
A very enjoyable evening spent among some very special birds.

Sunday 16 June 2013

Mega!! Pacific Swift at Trimley Marshes. Suffolk

While we were watching the black Kite in Faversham Kent yesterday, Breaking news came through on the pager that a Mega bird in the form of a Pacific Swift had turned up at Trimley Marshes in Suffolk.
From Faversham to Trimley it's about a 2 hour drive, and with conflicting messages throughout the day reporting the bird "present and showing well" to "no news of Pacific Swift since 2.45pm". Additional news was also coming through that Cordy's Lane had been shut off and police were issuing parking tickets, along with police speed traps being set up along the A14, and a 3 mile walk after you had parked the car. It was being to become less inviting to leave Faversham.
Even so we did still give it serious consideration on the drive back towards Essex. News of  thunderstorms and hail at Trimley finally put pay to any lingering thoughts we may of had.

This morning Brian having obviously not slept to well, texts at 5.15am to say he's going to take a chance and go for the swift. At 5.40am we are in the car and heading North up the A12 heading for Trimley.
Arriving at the car park around 7am. After Brian had managed to somehow squeeze the car into a gap between another car and a tree and we set off through the gate and headed down the footpath towards the reserve centre and hides.
Reports yesterday of the walk being 3 miles were probably an over estimate, and were probably closer to 2 miles.
On the walk down, we met a few birders returning to the car park. None had seen the bird, and although we didn't really believe the bird would have stuck for a second day, we still found it surprising that they would be leaving this early.
Arriving at the centre and opening the hide door, we were greeted with the words we didn't think we would hear. "It's just started to show", but it's very distant. Fantastic! Now all I had to do was find the bird among the hundreds of swifts out in front of me. The other problem is it's only showing briefly when it pops up from the reeds.
Soon after setting up the scope, birders started to arrive from everywhere, Soon the hide was packed, and I still hadn't seen the bird.
Some birders left the hide and started scanning from the grass bank, and after hearing encouraging calls of  the bird being seen, we decided to head outside and give it a go.

The area the swift was being seen in while we were there.
Shortly after setting the scope up, and with the help and directions from other birders I'm on the bird. Staying on the bird though is another matter all together. 
Before leaving the Common Swifts start to move closer towards the pools, and the Pacific Swift moves closer with them, giving some nice views.

A superb morning, spent in the company of a great group of birders who had come from all parts of the country.
We even get the added bonus of a lift back to the car park from one of the reserve volunteers, gratefully adding some shrapnel to his collection box as we leave.

Saturday 15 June 2013

Black Kite, Faversham

Since news broke of a Black Kite reported at Faversham in Kent on the 8th, I've been trying to get down there to hopefully connect with the bird.
Brian's text message yesterday evening asking if I wanted to try for the kite, was all the encouragement I needed.
Meeting at 6.30am it's only 60 miles from here to Faversham, with most of the route along the A2 and M2 exiting at junction 7 onto Brenley Lane in Faversham.
Arriving just after 7.30am to find two birders already present. One informs us that he has seen the bird a short while ago but very distant.
Although the day had started quite brightly, the wind was already very strong. Shelter from the wind was found behind some handily positioned hedgerows.
Some two hours pass without any sightings of the kite, more birders joining the search, including the original finder from the 8th, and Marco a familiar face from Rainham.
Then just after 9.30 the kite appears on the horizon and just above the tree line. It's distant and having to look into the sun as well was not helping. But with so little sun seen this year, I'm not going to complain about the sun.

Black Kite

Good scope views helped pick out some of the kite features and aided in picking it out among regular Buzzard sightings. The kite stayed in the air for fifteen minutes before dropping down below the trees and out of sight. It occasionally re-appeared from time to time after this but was not in view for very long each time. With the clouds gathering and the first drops of rain falling we took this as a sign to leave and headed for the car. Driving the lanes hoping for another chance to view the kite, we chanced upon two Turtle Doves feeding in a garden. Just as the camera came out two cyclists came round the corner and spooked the doves into the nearby trees.
The only shot that I could get was of a single bird among the tree foliage, before it headed off across the road and into the opposite field.

Pulling into the car park of the 13th-century parish church of St Peter and St Paul in Boughton produces sightings of three Spotted Flycatchers in the church grounds. With possibly another two around the car park itself.

From here it's only 2 miles to Oare Marshes. On arrival, there's no sign of the Bonaparte's Gull, but with the tide out it's probably spending its time out on the creeks until the tide pushes it back onto the pools at Oare. It was later to be reported from East Hide at 5.10pm.
Plenty of Black-tailed Godwits were present along with hundreds of Swifts. The overcast weather conditions forcing them to feed low over the water and surrounding grasslands.
There was constant background noise coming from the Marsh Frogs and their curious "Laughing" call. I eventually managed a shot of one through the tall grasses.

On the way home, we stopped off at Elmley Marshes and drove the entrance track up to the car park. On both sides of the track, plenty of Little Egrets were seen, with a count well into double figures.

Hares were also seen along with plenty of Redshank and lapwings, with both species having youngsters around.

Marsh harriers were also seen, with one female seen up close before crossing the road and heading off across the fields.
A good day, with a new addition to the life list and although the Black Kite remained distant throughout the time we spent there it still allowed some good scope views and was well worth a week's wait.

Saturday 8 June 2013

Minsmere, Bitterns, Harriers & Otters

A much more relaxing days birding was planned for today. 
Setting off at 6am with a journey along the A12 ahead of us, heading for the Rspb's flagship reserve at Minsmere.
Making good time we arrive around 7.15 and find the weather is not as we had hoped. In fact it's very grey  and overcast with strong winds.
Heading off towards North wall, we stop for a brief scan of the area. A Red-backed Shrike had been seen in this area yesterday, but there's no sign this morning.
Another stop to view a family party of Greylag Geese proves a very good move, as an Otter climbs the bank and heads across the path and down the opposite bank right in front of us.

East hide is a welcome relief from the strong winds. There's plenty of activity on the scrape in front of us. A scan of the area picks out a pair of Garganey swimming in the company of Gadwall. There's also a nice group of Black-tailed Godwits busily feeding along the back edges of the reeds.
Then the Otter puts in another appearance. After feeding in the right hand corner of the scrape, it swims straight across in front of us. Marsh harriers are regularly seen flying over the reedbeds.

Marsh Harrier

At the public hide there's good numbers of Ringed Plovers feeding along with a handful of Dunlin and a single summer plumaged Knot. A couple of Little Terns picked out on the far side of the scrape adds a year tick.

A brief walk along past the sluice to view Lucky Pool, proves unlucky with no sign of any Spoonbills or Little Gulls seen.
A stop along the return path to visit South hide is rather more lucky, when another year tick in the form of a  Little Stint is found among the feeding Ringed Plovers. 
There's no sign of any Med Gulls, but there's a surprising number of Kittiwakes present on the islands. Two Little Gulls are also seen from here.

Spending some time in the Bittern hide adds Red Deer to the day's sightings along with good numbers and some close views of Marsh Harriers. Two Bitterns flying over the ruins of Eastbridge Chapel and heading across the reedbeds is another good sighting.
At Island Mere hide there's cracking views of a Bittern as it's picked up early and is seen heading straight towards the hide and then turns and drops into the reeds a short distance away.


A very enjoyable days birding, adding a couple of year ticks and meeting some very nice people along the way.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Marsh Harrier, Lee Valley Country Park

Back on the patch today, and reaching Cornmill Meadows at 4.30am to find the meadows covered in a layer of mist.
Bird wise the meadows were really quiet. Only a single Little Ringed Plover of any note. A couple of singing Sedge Warblers outside the hide was joined by a male Reed Bunting.
On the walk back along the river I could hear the barking of a Roe deer.

A quick walk down to the farms in search of Little Owl proves in vain. Since my last visit the usual tree stump that the Little Owls use has lost the top branch of the stump. I hope this isn't going to prevent the owls from continuing to use it in the future.
Little Owl is proving a difficult species to catch up with this year, normally I've added Little Owl to the year list within the first week of the year. It's now June and still no Little Owl seen!

At Seventy Acre's Lake the rafts are fully occupied, but unlike last year the Common Terns have managed to get a few spots among the Black-headed Gulls. On one raft I counted a mixture of seventeen chicks in among the adult birds.

No sign of any Hobbies present over the lake or perched in the surrounding trees. A calling Cuckoo is seen in flight and followed as it lands in the top branches of one of the trees. Giving good scope views.
On the lake there's a pair of Great Crested Grebe in courtship display. Unfortunately out of range of the camera.
Another scan of the lake side trees produces a nice surprise in the form of a female Marsh harrier. A first for me on the patch. Taking the my patch list to 134.
It's quartering a small area of reedbed, occasionally dropping down into the reeds and coming up with a stick in it's talons. After watching it for fifteen minutes it disappears into the reeds and is not seen again.

Heading off along the river towards Holyfield Weir, there's at least five singing Nightingales present in a small area of shrub, with another one further along the path and yet another one singing from somewhere near the overflow car park on the other side of the river.
At the weir one of the Terrapins is out basking in the sun. With a couple of the Common terns coming down the river and skimming across the lake.

On the return leg a pair of Garden Warblers are spotted among the tree branches, which were my first on the patch this year.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Savi's Warbler, Lakenheath

With a Savi's Warbler having spent its seventh day at Lakenheath yesterday, we decide to make the 70-mile trip this morning.
Arriving just after 7am, we head for the reserve centre and take the path leading down towards Trial Wood, Shortly after reaching the junction at the far end of Trial Wood and New Fen a reeling Grasshopper Warbler is heard.
Heading up along the track we take the left-hand path and midway behind Trial Wood and Joist Fen we spot a small group of birders.
Before reaching this area the Savi's starts to reel. Having just heard Grasshopper Warbler reeling it was quite easy to separate it from the Savi's.
The Savi's reeling being slightly lower and briefer to my ears anyway.
After reaching the area where the bird had been seen most often, It's pleasing to see the bird sitting up in full view. Allowing for some great scope views.
The bird would briefly appear near the top of the reeds and start "reeling" and then move lower down into the reeds, only to reappear near the tops and reel again.

Savi's Warbler

The only other Savi's I've seen in the UK was back in 2009 on my local patch Lee Valley CP. Today's bird was much showier.

The statue along the entrance track
While watching the Savi's, three Bitterns were seen flying together over Joist Fen. Bearded tits were also heard "pinging" in the reedbeds further along the track.
At Joist Fen there were sightings of several Marsh harriers.

There were no sightings today of the Golden Orioles, and reports from the site suggest there's not much singing at all taking place this year. Making it even more difficult to locate these birds.
According to reserve staff, there is a pair of Orioles on site.

Heading back towards the reserve centre the Gropper was still "reeling" as we approached. A quick scan of the reeds and there it was in full view perched at the top of a single reed stem. A scan across New fen produced some superb views of a single Red Kite and Hobby. Along with plenty of Swifts. 

Views of another Bittern flying low across the reeds behind us was a good ending to the morning.