Saturday, 31 August 2013

Spotted Crake & Kingfisher at Grove ferry, Kent

With no target birds in mind today, we decided to head towards Kent and another visit to Grove Ferry.
Arriving around 7.30 we headed straight for the viewing ramp and started scanning the pool for any sign of the Crake.
The morning started with dry but overcast conditions, After a while of scanning with no sightings Brian and dad decided to move on and head towards the David Feast hide, hoping for views of Kingfisher.
I stayed at the viewing ramp and managed to get a very brief view of the Juvenile Spotted Crake roughly in the same location as last Saturday.
As more people started to arrive, the sun came out and the viewing conditions became more difficult, with heat haze being a major problem again.
I joined Brian and dad in the hide, but no Kingfisher had been seen. The only bird of any note seen was a showy Water Rail feeding in front of the reeds along the back edge.
The pager alerted us to another Spotted Crake that had been seen from Harrison's Drove hide. So a short walk further along the grass path and we start to scan the pools in front of the hide.
After several scans with the scope, the Crake suddenly appeared at the water's edge. It was brief and soon disappeared back to the safety of the reeds.

Before leaving the hide a nice fly-by Kingfisher was seen, as it flew past it seemed to be heading in the direction of David Feast hide.
On the way back towards the car we decided to try our luck for the Kingfisher again. This time the female was perched on her post as we entered.

From here we dropped in at Margate Cemetery in search of either of the two Wrynecks that had been reported the previous day. Unfortunately neither were found by us today.
One would be reported as "still by the horse paddocks" much later in the day, long after we had left for home.
While in the cemetery I did manage to see my first White-letter Hairstreak Butterfly.
The cemetery being far less busy today that on our last visit, when a certain Thrush made an appearance.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Spotted Crake Grove Ferry, Kent

After the short trip over to Rainham Marshes yesterday to bag a Sabine's Gull, The idea today was to wait and see if anything appeared close to home.
Yesterday a Spotted Crake was reported from grove Ferry along with a Wryneck and a brief sighting of a Red-back Shrike.
So when the Crake and Wryneck are reported again this morning, it's time to hit the road and head for Kent.
The 76 miles to Grove ferry went by without a problem, the delay being when the satnav took us to the wrong end of Grove Road.
Eventually the surroundings became familiar and the pay & display car park of Grove ferry Inn came into view. The next trick is crossing Grove Ferry Road!
Why cars have to park on this road when there is a car park opposite is a mystery to me. There's room for 2-3 cars by the gate that can safely park here without any problems, but parking half on the grass verge and half in the road is ridiculous and dangerous. Maybe they want to avoid the £1.70 Bank Holiday car park fees?

Having crossed the road without injury, I made my way along the footpath and up the slope to the viewing ramp. 
A small group of birders were already present and had seen the Crake briefly among the reeds from time to time.
This was not going to be easy, The area the bird was in was right at the back edge of the reeds and the sun was causing a serious heat haze.
Having got a few general pointers as to the most likely spot to scope, I started the search.
The call went up that the bird was out in front of the reeds, but I just couldn't get on it before it vanished back among the reeds. It was the same story for the next 15-20 minutes.
Then as I scoped back and forth across it's favoured area, the Crake suddenly appeared in the scope. A brief view was followed by a nice view of the bird in flight.
The Crake appears again in front of the shortened reeds and wanders from left to right along the front edge.
Brian on a family day out with Sue, Billy & Gemma managed to time he's arrival  just right and he's there to see the Crake before it's lost from view again.

While we were there the Crake's favoured area was around the shortest reeds just right of centre at the back of the water's edge in the photo above.

A short walk along the footpath in the hope of seeing the Wryneck proves unsuccessful. As we approached a small group called us over to say the Wryneck had just dropped onto the path.
But after a 15-20 minutes wait the Wryneck is not seen, A birder approaches from where the bird was seen to drop in and tells us that he had just watched a Sparrowhawk chasing the Wryneck and had seen it drop onto the path.
He had seen the Sprawk move off, without a Wryneck in it's talons. So as far as we are aware the Wryneck is still present and in one piece. 
It's at this point that we decide to make a move for home.

The drive home was eventful, when the car towing a trailer in front of us starting smoking. Then it started smoking a lot, then the trailer tyre exploded sending tyre parts all over the road.
Luckily it stayed in a relatively straight line and after what seemed an age pulled over onto the hard shoulder.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Sabine's Gulls Rainham marshes

Sitting at home doing very little when Brian texts to say 4 Sabine Gulls had been reported on Aveley Bay at Rainham Marshes.
A lifer for me and it's approx 18 miles from home, and I'm still debating whether to go or not!
Brian is already on route and eventually after tempting dad into it so am I.
The plan was to drive round to the reserve and walk round to Aveley Bay and hopefully connect with the birds there.
Luckily a phone call to Brian while on route allows us to change plans and head instead for Coldharbour lane and the small car park at the far end.
As we leave the car Brian is not far away, a short walk and we join him, along the footpath overlooking the Thames foreshore.
It seems all four birds had flown from the reserve and headed for the Thames, but only one was now in view.
I grab a quick look through his scope and after getting an idea of the general area I'm soon on the bird once more as it floats about on the water. It briefly takes flight and lands on the foreshore, before heading back out onto the water.

The sun is directly into our faces so we decided to head off towards the reserve and scope the bird with the sun behind us.
The plan only had one flaw, the bird having drifted down river towards the gathered birders decided to head back up a river as soon as we arrived.
A Common Seal was seen hauling out onto the foreshore close by, and a few Black Terns were watched flying through.
The foreshore also held many Black-headed Gulls, Common Terns and Black-tailed Godwits and 4 Dunlin dropped in just before we left.
Back home for dinner with a lifer in the bag, and no work tomorrow. Happy days.

Wryneck, Landguard NR, Suffolk

Trying to avoid the worst of the predicted all day rain near home we headed away from Essex and Kent and instead headed for Suffolk.
Arriving at Landguard Nature Reserve shortly before 7.30, we were met with muggy, murky weather with light drizzly rain falling. Taking the road towards the car park outside Landguard Fort, we made our way through the gates and started checking the surrounding area for anything that may have dropped in overnight.
Having walked the fence line of the bird observatory without much being found, I decided to walk towards the beach and check that out.
Linnets were present in good numbers and a Sparrowhawk was seen at close quarters trying to take one for it's breakfast.
Meeting up with dad on the shingle, He had found a a very confiding Golden Plover. 

Further along the shingle I spotted a single Whinchat and on the short grass a single female Wheatear. Approaching the bird observatory fence again, one of the bird ringers called out to us and asked if we wanted to take a look at a Pied Flycatcher that they had just caught in the nets. 
Having walked the area and back, we headed back to the car to dry off, and decided to make our way towards Minsmere.
The pools around South hide held good numbers of Greenshank with at least six being seen. Double figures of Green Sandpipers and smaller numbers of Common Sands were also seen. A nice sighting was a family of Water Rails on the pool behind South hide.
Other birds noted here were Snipe, Common and Sandwich Terns, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Ruff, Redshank and a couple of Spotted Redshank.
Leaving the hide news comes through of 2 Wrynecks back at Landguard!
Back to the car and back along the A12 to Landguard.
Arriving to find a small group of birders looking towards a clump of bushes. Struggling to find the bird it suddenly flies up into the trees in the observatory compound. Giving brief views as it lands on the outside branches before heading further back in the trees.
Another brief view is had when it appears on the fence and then drops down onto the grass in front, before again heading back into the trees in the compound.
Four Wrynecks in total would be reported from Landguard, 2 being trapped and ringed.

Another Pied Fly was found in the bushes close to the shingle beach and boardwalk along with plenty of Wheatears and a couple of Yellow Wagtails.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Red-necked Phalarope at King George V Reservoir, Chingford

Friday morning and a familiar old story, I'm at work and a bird gets reported ten minutes from home.
In this case it's a Red-necked Phalarope found on KGV Reservoir by Harry Lacey. Brian's text at 9am adds to the frustration of not being able to go for it.
More frustration is added to this when I can finally leave for home at 3pm. I have a doctors appointment at 4.40pm.
It's a blood pressure check up, and not being able to go for the Phalarope is not helping in keeping it down.

Finally I'm given good news on the blood pressure front and at around 5.15 I can finally try for the Phalarope.
Pulling in to the car park we were met by a familiar face (David Bradnum). Before we have parked the car he has got us onto a Hobby. We set off up the slope and head past the sailing club hut heading towards the causeway. Stopping regularly to scan the South basin.
Plenty of Pied Wagtails seen with a couple of Grey Wagtails among them. Common Sandpipers were also present in good numbers, with at least eight recorded.
Reaching the causeway I had not found the Phalarope, so decided to make my way across the causeway and walk the far bank.
Making our way back along the far side, we get lucky when after meeting up with Dave Bradnum, Paul Hawkins and Dave Morrison, they get us straight onto the bird.
It remained for most of the time in the middle of the reservoir amongst a group of Black-headed Gulls. Occasionally getting harassed by a tern or gull, it would fly a short distance and then settle back down to feed or sleep. It eventually came within reach of the camera but seemed to prefer the middle of the reservoir and soon returned there.

Another bonus  here were the presence of two Black Terns, and we managed to get on them when Dave Morrison spotted them in the air at the far end of the reservoir.

Blood pressure checked and fine, and a Red-necked Phalarope in the bag ten minutes from home.
Not a bad start to a bank holiday weekend.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Wood Sandpiper, Dungeness & Temminck's Stint at Oare Marshes

The day started with a seawatch at Dungeness, arriving at 6.30 we headed for the beach only to find the predicted winds had not happened.
So with hardly any wind apart from a minimal breeze, bird movement was slow.
In the session birds noted were 2 Manx Shearwater's, 1 Arctic Skua, 7 Black Tern, 3 Common Scoter plus the usual suspects at the patch. Gannets were numerous, as were Common Terns. 

Moving on to the reserve, we made our way along the path to Firth Hide, and as soon as we scan the islands in front of us a Wood Sandpiper was found.

Wood Sandpiper

While enjoying the relatively close views of this elegant wader two more waders dropped in a short distance away. A Green Sandpiper and another Wood Sand. An ideal opportunity to compare the two species side by side. 
The Green Sandpiper's stay was brief, as it took off and headed out of sight. But the two Wood Sandpiper's stayed put. Only making short flights between the small islands in front of us.

Also on the islands in front of us were Ruff, and Redshank, taking advantage of the abundant food source around the edges of the islands.

On the way home we dropped in at Oare Marshes. The target here being a Temminck's Stint. 
Reaching the small pool on the West side of the road, we get straight onto the Stint. It's on a small muddy island and being so small and asleep it could very easily be missed.
Luckily it's close to a Ringed Plover and soon wakes to feed. Giving excellent views through the scope. A year tick for me and a life tick for dad.

Temminck's Stint
Making our way back up the narrow road we scan the larger pool on the opposite side.Black-tailed Godwits are present in large numbers. A couple of Curlew Sandpipers are found among them along with a single Greenshank. But there was no sign of the Bonaparte's Gull while we were there.

Another bonus here was my first ever sighting of a couple of Clouded Yellow Butterflies.

Clouded Yellow

Sunday, 11 August 2013

European Roller, Horsey Norfolk plus Blue-winged Teal Ouse washes

At 12.20 on Monday 5th news breaks of a European Roller at Horsey in Norfolk. 
Having already missed the Roller at Holt earlier in the year through work. I'm again stuck at work with no chance of taking time off to go for it. With the whole working week ahead what's the chances of the bird sticking until the weekend?
Checking the news services each day, to find it's still present on Friday at 17.15. Will it stick overnight and give me a chance of seeing my first Roller?

Meeting up with Brian Saturday morning, he asks the question. "Where we going?" He already knew the answer and had the site in the satnav ready to go.
Leaving Essex at 6am, we are parked up and heading off down the road past Nelson's Head Pub shortly after 8. There's no sign of the bird after scanning the fence posts and trees along the track, so we continue walking towards the dunes.
Reaching the dunes, we can see a small group of birders in the distance. Turning the corner and heading East the pager beeps into life. "Roller still southeast of the east end of Nelson Head track this morning but distant".
Reaching the others birders I'm on the bird immediately. Although quite distant through the bins it gives great scope views, sitting on a fence post.

All photos of  Roller kindly provided by Dan Self. 
Nice to meet you Dan and hope you made it back ok with that beast of a telescope you were carrying. A Vixen 80mm 900mm f.l. refractor!

It's using fence posts along the edge of a channel, and it frequently drops from the posts and into the channel and then would reappear a short distance away on another post.
A stunning bird when perched. It goes up another level when in flight! 

After forcing myself away from the Roller I Climbed the sand dunes, to find Grey and Common Seals hauled up on the beach.

They look pretty docile, but there was plenty of evidence of fighting having taken place on quite a few of the seals. With a couple of big bull seals around.

After a quick pit stop at Salthouse for a coffee, it's off to Titchwell.
Plenty of action from Island hide, with Green and Common Sandpipers, Dunlin, Ringed, Little Ringed and Golden Plover, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, Avocet, Greenshank, Bearded Tit, Spotted Redshank Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk all seen from here.
Back at the car park it was good to bump into Paul Hackett again. I first met Paul at Bramfield Church while searching for Hawfinches. He took time out to give me a few pointers on digi-scoping.

Heading for home, news came through that the eclipse Blue-winged Teal had been seen at Ouse Washes in Cambridge.
A small detour and by 4pm we are sitting in Stockdale Hide starting the search for the Teal. 

The bird had been reported as present at around 2pm, but none of the small group of birders in the hide had re-found it since.
Plenty of Teal and Garganey were present which was making the search that much harder. A nice little distraction from the search for the Teal came in the form of Three Cranes. Seen to our left feeding among the taller grasses.
The hide was starting to fill up now and after another scan of the wildfowl present, one guy thinks he's found a likely candidate. Everyone's scope is trained on the bird and we start to go through the ID features. It's looking good as far as plummage, bill shape and legs are concerned, as it swims back and forth between to spits, it then decides to swim out of view behind the right hand spit.
Keeping the scope trained on the area, it reappears on the grass at the front of the spit. After a short walk it raises one leg and stretches one wing fully out. The beautiful powder blue wing patch catches the sun perfectly.
Any lingering doubts are now gone, this is our bird.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Sunday morning at Dungeness

Spent a relaxing if not altogether rewarding morning in terms of year ticks at Dungeness.
Arriving around 7am we headed for the beach and a bit of sea watching, The sea was calm and the sun shining.
Gannets were frequently seen passing through, and Common Scoters in good numbers were seen heading both East and West.
At "The Patch" Black-headed Gulls were by far the most numerous birds present, but after a while Sandwich and Common Terns were seen frequently diving for food.
Brian picked up single Great and Arctic Skua's on the horizon, and a single Little tern was a welcome sighting.
Arriving back at the car a nearby bramble bush was alive with Butterflies.

Painted Lady

Small Copper

Moving on to Arc Pit, we had two Garganey  a single Black-necked Grebe along with Little Ringed Plover and four Green Sandpipers. Sadly there was no sign of any of the recently reported Wood Sandpipers present.
A few familiar faces were seen throughout the morning, Paul Hawkins, Mick and Richard and Lee Brown. Who was making his first visit to Dunge.
Nice to finally meet you Lee.

A brief detour to Oare Marshes, produced impressive numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, Golden Plovers, Lapwing, Redshank and Avocets, along with Dunlin and five Curlew Sandpipers.
No sign of the Bonaparte's, but it could well have been present and asleep on one of the islands. Several scans failed to pick it out though.

Local Little Owls

Spent Saturday morning watching the family of Little Owls close to my home.

I've still to get any shots of the birds feeding on the ground, but that will give me another reason if it was needed to return as soon as possible.

I was just getting ready to take a few shots after establishing a safe distance that the owls felt comfortable with, when a workman's tractor came crashing through the nearby trees. 
Bear in mind that this was at 6am on a Saturday morning!
He then proceeded to lift the side arm and run it straight across the top of any nearby shrubs and bushes. The noise was amplified because of how quiet it was at this time of the day. He even tried to drive the tractor across a small nearby bridge.
Eventually he seemed to get fed up and made his way back the same way he appeared.

It took another 30 minutes before the owls felt comfortable again, and finally I grabbed a few shots before heading for home.

Green Woodpecker