Sunday 29 March 2015

Alpine Swift, Crawley West Sussex

An Alpine Swift had spent much of yesterday at Crawley and quite possibly had gone to roost overnight!
Being 60 miles from home, We decided we had to make the trip. Having persuaded Brian late last night that he also wanted to go, we made arrangements to meet at 5.30am remembering that the clocks would be going forward.
An hour later and we are parked up outside the Virgin Atlantic building, only for the security guard to politely ask us to move. After Brian found a spot just outside their car park he re-joined us and the small group of birders which now included one Lee Evans.
The best of the weather was forecast for early morning, so we arrived at first light thinking the Swift if it had roosted would be on the move pretty soon afterwards.
Two hours of either strolling round scanning different parts of the building or standing adjacent to the front entrance in almost constant light rain failed to find the bird.
With news of a Jack Snipe at Warnham Nature Reserve yesterday, and it only being 10 miles down the road we decided to pay it a visit.
Upon arrival we found the reserve was not due to open until 10am, it was only 9.15am. Luckily the warden arrived and opened up early to allow us entry. After a donation of £1.50 into the donation duck situated on the door we were looking out from the first hide.
We failed to locate the Jack Snipe, despite locating a single Snipe among the reeds, it was just too far to clinch an id with only bins available.
The second hide was a long tunnel affair with open hatches along it's length. Outside they had turned the whole area into a series of feeding stations.
The whole area was well stocked with all types of food and it attracted a good variety of common species. Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Treecreeper, Great and Blue Tits and Chaffinch.
The pager bleeped into action to inform us that the Swift had indeed roosted overnight and had now been seen flying around the Virgin building.
As we approached the signs were not great, and after joining the small group of birders we were told it had been lost to view.
LGRE said that there had been a very brief 10 minute period of sunshine and that had seen the Swift take to the air. By now the rain was falling again and the signs were not looking good. 

Alpine Swift

But a short while later it was spotted circling in the air. With the heavy cloud and rain the bird stayed really low in the air and would circle round in front of the nearby buildings and car parks.
It seemed to be looking for a spot to go back to roost, and after flying up to the eaves of the Virgin Atlantic building several times it found a spot along the side of the building. Allowing incredible views.

Another security guard came out and kindly allowed us to grab a few photos before asking us to move back to the main road. He even borrowed a pair of bins to grab a look for himself. 
The guy handled the situation very well and all the birders respected he had a job to do and moved away when requested.
My third Alpine Swift but without doubt the best views I've ever had. A stunning bird!

Friday 27 March 2015

Willow Tits at Kelham Bridge. Leicestershire

How far do you go to find a Willow Tit? In our case it was 115 miles!
Leaving home shortly before 6am this morning, it was a straight forward journey along the M25 and then M1. Shortly after leaving the M1 and after turning left instead of right we pulled up outside the reserve entrance just before 8am.

 The reserve has two hides, both of which were at one time cargo containers. After opening the hatch we looked out onto a small lake. The lake was very quiet with only a pair of Mute Swans Two Moorhens and a Coot. A single Common Snipe appeared at the far end shortly afterwards. There is also a man made bank  with holes cut into it, hopefully to encourage returning Sand Martins to nest here.
In the right hand corner there were three feeders hanging from a tree. Great, Blue, and Long-tailed Tits all dropped in to feed, along with Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Dunnock, and Robin.
It wasn't long before the first Willow Tit flew in. Shortly afterwards a second bird joined it to feed from the peanut basket.
They visited the feeders frequently and would feed on either the seed, peanuts or fat balls. Flying off into a nearby tree to continue eating.
Eventually the Willow Tits were heard giving their "erz-erz-erz"call from within the trees.
Several Common Buzzards were seen circling overhead during the visit.

Willow Tit

Monday 23 March 2015

Lakenheath RSPB, Suffolk

Early start this Sunday morning, with light traffic and no delays we arrived on site at around 7am with only one other car in the car park.
Stopping first at the Washland viewpoint to scan the area. Since our last visit they have added a wooden bench which is very welcome. A scan of the wash eventually locates the male Garganey tucked in along the reeds with Teal on the far Eastern edge. Bearded Tits could be heard "pinging" close by and Cetti's Warblers were calling from several spots.
A walk along the Little Ouse River towards the Northern end of the reserve produced another year tick addition when two Whooper Swans were found. The first among a small group of Mute Swans and the second flying up river to join it.

Whooper Swan

Having reached the far Northern end of the reserve we scanned the large reedbeds from the Joist Fen viewpoint. With the thick grey clouds now starting to dissolve into light cloud with hints of blue sky interspersed, it wasn't long before the Marsh Harriers were seen circling above. A one point five were seen through the bins at the same time! Two Buzzards flew in to join them and while watching these, dad called "Crane". Two birds almost certain to be one of the two pairs on the reserve flew across the reedbeds and circled back round to drop into the reeds along the edge of the tree line. 
Steve the owner of the only other car in the car park when we arrived informed us that the female Fudge duck was showing well when he arrived. So the three of us slowly moved along the path to view the channel of water behind Joist Fen Viewpoint. Sure enough the fudge duck was still present! Slowly swimming up the channel with only a Coot for company.
Making our way back towards the reserve centre, we stopped off at Mere Hide. Not much activity seen from here. A single Common Snipe preening on the far bank and Brian managed a nice shot of a Marsh harrier as it flew across. A calling water Rail and a "booming" Bittern were heard but not seen.
Back at the reserve centre while grabbing a coffee and chatting to the reserve staff another visitor came in with a dead Barn Owl. He'd found it along the side of the road outside the reserve. A sad end to what had been a great mornings birding. 
This is a great reserve where the staff are always friendly and welcoming and a reserve that is always looking to improve habitats for wildlife and facilities for visitors. 
A Great White Egret was found just along from the reserve entrance road. It was standing in the middle of a pool of water on the other side of the Little Ouse River. So a Norfolk tick!

A stop off on route to Santon Downham, was rewarded with stunning views of a Great Grey Shrike ( my third of the year) and a real bonus came in the form of a fly over Goshawk, that drifted across the trees and path we were viewing the shrike from!
Time was now against us so we passed on Santon Downham and went in search of any newly arrived Stone Curlews on route home.
We managed to pick out a single bird and enjoyed good scope views of it before it was time to leave.

Sunday 1 March 2015

Glaucous Gull, Dover Harbour

Deciding on a visit to Dover this morning, leaving at 6am it was shortly after 7.15 that we were parking the car in the pay and display car park alongside the harbour.
From here it was a short walk across the bridge and we were heading off along the Prince of Wales pier. Stopping just before the first shelter to scan a small group of gulls roosting at the water's front of the old Hoverport failed to locate the Glaucous Gull among them.
Luckily we had brought some bread along, and shortly after throwing some down the target bird came flying into view.
It made a few passes and then decided it was going to land among the roosting gulls. It wasn't hard to pick out.

It didn't stay there for long, and soon was flying close to the pier again.

Turnstones were searching for any scraps of food along the pier and among the rocks.

A seal was busy fishing in the harbour and so was a Shag. It came alongside the pier at one point allowing a quick photo before it headed back towards the harbour.

Another year tick was added when three Purple Sandpipers were found among the rocks on the far side of the harbour.

After leaving Dover there was time for a drop in visit to Oare Marshes, where the water levels were high, leaving very few of the islands exposed.  Lapwings, Avocets, Wigeon, Teal and good numbers of Pintail were found along with a couple of fly over Marsh Harriers.

On the way home, there was still time for a drop in at Elmley Marshes. As we pulled in a surprise year tick was added when two Grey partridge were found close to the road. The first Grey Partridge I have ever seen at this site. I've seen Red-Legged on many occasions here but never Grey so this was a nice bonus.
The drive along the entrance track was largely uneventful, with the usual Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew, Skylark and Marsh harriers seen. Two Snipe were found and a nice flock of Black-tailed Godwits flew in.