Saturday 30 May 2015

Turtle Doves: Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire

Having tried and failed to locate any Turtle Doves at Fowlmere RSPB on Bank holiday Monday, we decided to pay the site another visit. This time arriving shortly after 6.30am.
We headed along the footpath past the information hut and took the left hand fork towards Spring Hide. A short distance along the path the soft "purring" of the first Turtle Dove was heard.
The walk continued past Spring Hide and on towards the Reedbed Hide. As we approached another Turtle Dove started calling. After a bit of searching it was located among thick cover near the top of a tree, allowing half decent views through the scope.

Reedbed Hide at Fowlmere

From the hide the usual reedbed birds were seen, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Reed Bunting and a female Marsh harrier emerged from the reeds. 
Leaving the hide another Turtle Dove could be heard. The dead tree among the reeds was scanned and sure enough there was the Turtle Dove. We enjoyed views of Turtle Doves for the next hour at different areas. Only managing a couple of hand held phone to scope shots.
Before leaving we managed a brief view of a Barn Owl. Brief or not it's always a welcome sight.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

A Hectic Days birding in Suffolk.

With limited time and a tight schedule we started the day at Weeting Heath in Suffolk, Walking towards West Hide I could hear a Firecrest singing. Soon afterwards one was spotted in an Ivy clad tree close by. Dad had wandered along to East Hide and had good views of two Stone Curlews on the ridge in front of the hide. Just before entering West Hide a Spotted Flycatcher was seen briefly perched in a tree in front of the hide. Disappointingly I couldn't find a single Woodlark, Plenty of Skylarks singing above us and several seen feeding on the short grass, but no Woodlarks!
Time to move on, and with Lakenheath only 2 miles down the road that was our next destination. The warden informed us that the Little Bittern was still present, but very elusive.
We headed off along the track and soon heard a Cuckoo calling followed by several Common Whitethroats, Reed and Sedge warblers. Eventually we arrived at the triangle of pools and joined the small group of birders already present.
Soon afterwards the Bittern was heard "Barking" and each time there was a period of barking the bird seemed to be moving forward among the reeds. Hopes were raised that it might appear at the edge of the reeds or make a brief flight. Unfortunately it never did while we were there!
Having heard of the presence of a summer plumaged Red-necked Grebe at Livermere Lake (Ampton Water) we decided to pay it a visit. Parking by the church and heading off along the grass track, we eventually arrived at the waters edge close to the wooden walkway leading to what looked like a small viewing screen or hide of some sort. The walkway didn't look to safe and it reached a long way out into the water, also not knowing if it was for public use we played it safe and remained on dry land.
The bird was quickly found to the right of the walkway and although it remained distant gave great scope views.
The RSPB reserve at Fowlmere was to be our last stop, which proved to be very frustrating in trying to track down Turtle Doves.
A Bank Holiday and early afternoon was not the time to visit! People had forgotten this was a nature reserve and the noise levels and strong winds were making it difficult to hear any "purring" Turtle Doves.
The tight timetable had beaten us and we had to leave without seeing any Turtle Doves.

While at Lakenheath we had been hearing reports of a male Red-backed Shrike being found at Fairlop Waters CP. This being only a 15 minute car journey from home!
Unfortunately dad had to go straight out again to run a relative to the Hospital which was the reason for the dashing about and tight schedule today.
Luckily on his return the bird was still being reported so we made the short trip, Brian had already left and we met up shortly after arriving. we met a birder on the walk out who gave us directions. (stay on the sandy path until you cross the bridge just passed the lagoon, then take the dirt track on the right until you reach the piles of aggregate) Having followed these instructions we were surprised to find no birders present! The habitat looked perfect for shrikes, and then dad spotted it perched up on a small bush!

Red-backed Shrike (B Anderson)

It was quite mobile while we were there and would regularly fly from one bush to another.

A stunning looking bird and a great end to a hectic days birding.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Broad-billed Sandpiper, Tinker's Marsh Suffolk

 Saturday 24th May

Set off this morning with the plan of heading for the Minsmere, Walberswick area. 
We started the days birding on Dunwich Heath searching for Dartford Warblers. The weather was somewhat colder than expected and with the wind blowing across the heath off the sea it felt even colder.
We parked up and walked one of the grass paths across the heath. A cracking male Stonechat came into view. Perched up on a small piece of gorse. Then the familiar sound of a Dartford Warbler was heard quite close by. A few Brief views of the bird sitting up were had, but it was soon diving down into thick cover to escape the conditions. 

Leaving Dunwich we decided to head for Minsmere, but having turned onto the entrance road news broke that the Broad-billed Sandpiper was showing again at Tinker's Marsh. We decided to turn the car around and make the extra 10+ mile journey. 
Parking up outside The Harbour Inn we crossed the Bailey Bridge and headed off West along the river wall. After a mile and a half walk out, we found a small group of birders and busily feeding on the pool in front of them was a group of  Dunlin and among them was the Broad-billed Sandpiper. It was showing really well and much closer than I was expecting the bird to be when we set off. It was also good to see it feeding with Dunlin and Ringed Plover to get a great size comparison.
Three Curlew Sandpipers were found feeding on the first pool and an added bonus was the appearance of a Caspian Gull present among the regular gulls on the same pool.

Broad-billed Sandpiper

Eventually, we made our way back to the car and headed off toward Minsmere. 
At Minsmere at this time of year, we always stop and check out the Sand Martin bank. Great views of these birds flying back and forth from their nest holes. I was more surprised to see a Blue Tit entering one of the nest holes several times. 
Further along the path several Common Whitethroats were seen and heard and a more distant Lesser Whitethroat was picked up along with a male Bullfinch. The wind was still quite brisk, and it was surprising to see and hear several Bearded Tits at the front of the Reeds.
We reached the East Hide and very quickly picked out the Red Necked phalarope at the back of the scrape feeding in the company of a couple of Avocets.
Another much overdue year tick was added when two Sandwich Terns headed across the scrape. Plenty of swallows were found around the sluice, but there was no sign of any Spoonbills on the South levels today.
We decided to spend some time in the Bittern Hide before leaving for home. What a good choice that turned out to be! Stunning views of several Bitterns were had, including a single bird that appeared from the reeds and spent most of the next hour in view. Swifts were numerous across the reedbeds as were Marsh harriers.

The day ended with a life tick and  six year ticks!

Monday 18 May 2015

Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven

The Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven had first been found on 11th January. Present for just a day it was not re-found the next day. Then on the 11th April presumably the same bird re-appeared on the reserve! It's been seen sporadically since, sometimes seen 3-4 days in a row, then disappearing for a week only to re-appear again.
So with good news of the birds presence coming from Titchfield Haven yesterday, we decided to make the 114 mile trip. Arriving at the reserve at 7.30am only to find the reserve closed and wasn't opening until 9.30am! 
Instead of waiting we decided to head around to Posbrook Flood, so we drove around to the other side of the reserve and walked the footpath to the flood. Only to find the flood almost devoid of birds. Grey Herons, swans and the usual warblers were present along with a few hirundines.
We re-traced our steps back towards the car park and on the way found a very confiding Water Vole busily feeding on a reed stem. 

We headed back to the reserve for the 9.30am opening, and after paying the £4 entrance fee walked back along the main road and made for Pumfrett Hide which overlooked the North scrape. 
Upon entering the hide there was no sign of the target bird. But a couple of Med Gulls were resting up on one of the islands. We had been told by the reserve staff that it is often seen with the flock of Black-tailed Godwits. On North scrape, we managed to find just one roosting Godwit, not exactly a flock!
High tide was forecast for around 11am, so we waited, hoping that the birds would be pushed in at this time.
At 10.53 the pager reported the bird present on North scrape, Pumfrett Hide overlooks North Scrape!! and nobody in the hide had seen the bird or put any news out saying they had.
A short time later the pager bleeped again, stating that the bird was present and viewable from Knight's Bank Hide. 
This meant a walk of 20-25 minutes back to the main road along the seafront to the reserve entrance and then a walk as far along the track in the opposite direction as you could go. 
Upon entering Knight's Bank Hide we were told it wasn't showing at present! Luckily we didn't have long to wait and as I set my scope up the Yellowlegs appeared.

After 25-30 minutes the heat haze kicked in and this made viewing the bird much more difficult.
We took this as a cue to head for home.

Dropping into Acre's Down on the way home for a brief walk, produced good views of another year tick in the form of a singing Wood warbler and a stunning male Redstart.

Another great day's birding!

Saturday 2 May 2015

Gunners Park Dip! Success at Rainham Marshes RSPB

This morning we were all set for a trip to Rainham when news broke of a Red-rumped Swallow present at Gunners park!
So off we set, Little more than 37 miles from home but the journey was painfully slow, we got within 10-15 minutes of the site when news came through that the bird had flown North West!
The bird had disappeared earlier and had re-appeared so we waited around the lake hoping. Two hours later and no sign. A few familiar faces arrived during this time giving us a chance to catch up, so not a completely wasted journey.

Back to the original plan and a visit to Rainham Marshes. 
Again a painfully slow journey which made the 30 mile trip seem like double that. Finally we parked up in the car park and headed off along the path towards Target Pools.
Plenty of Reed and Sedge Warblers all along the pathways on the way out. Cuckoo calling in the distance. Had a quick look for any Water Voles on the way round but no luck today. We reached the viewing platform overlooking Target Pools and started scanning the area for the Pec Sandpiper.
We were struggling to find the target bird, and nobody else was on it either. After several scans I eventually located the bird and managed to get the others onto it.
Great scope views, but the heat haze and distance was making photo's difficult to say the least. 

Pectoral Sandpiper

A very nice consolation for the earlier dipped Red-Rumped Swallow.
A smart male Garganey was also on show on the Target Pools, and a Peregrine caused panic when it flew straight overhead. 
Another calling Cuckoo on the way back, with plenty of Whitethroats and Linnets. A couple of Blackcap and Garden Warblers were also seen.
As we were driving along the entrance track to leave a Lesser Whitethroat popped into view close to the roadside.

Lakenheath RSPB & Brief Norfolk visit

Sunday 26th April

Nice early start to meet Brian, and we are rewarded with a Barn Owl sitting on a roadside post before we pull into the Lakenheath car park at first light. 
The usual route was taken, so up to the wash and a walk along the bank and river Little Ouse seperating Suffolk from Norfolk. Before reaching the steps I hear my first Cuckoo of the year. As I reach the top step it's seen flying across the tree tops in the distance.
Good numbers of Reed and Sedge Warblers are heard calling as we round the bend and make our way along the bank. While listening to these the distinctive sound of a Grashopper Warbler starts up. This proved more difficult to pin down than the Reed and Sedge Warblers.
Approaching the Joist Fen viewpoint a Bittern is heard booming and several Whitethroat and Cetti's are calling.
At the viewpoint Brain gets a fleeting glimpse of two Cranes before they drop down into the reeds, and several Marsh harriers are on show.

During the previous week varying numbers of Dotterel had been reported at Choseley drying barns in Norfolk, so we decided to drop in hoping that one or two may still be present.
On route we had another encounter with a Barn Owl. Our third of the morning. This individual was hunting a roadside field.

On arrival our luck was in, when three were seen distantly feeding in the ploughed field next to the drying barns. Good scope views but no chance of any photos at this distance.
The surrounding fields held large numbers of Yellowhammers, Linnets and Stock Doves with smaller numbers of Corn Buntings in the surrounding bushes.
Red-legged partridge were feeding close to the road and plenty of hares were seen. A Marsh harrier drifted across and a Red Kite was seen being harassed by Rooks and a single male Wheatear was also seen.

News came through that two Ring Ouzels were present on a sports field at Thornham, being only a mile away we dropped in for a look.
On arrival a guy was inflating a giant bouncy castle on the field, Luckily we located the birds at the far end of the field feeding close to the cricket covers and field hedges.

We dropped in at Titchwell for a quick visit, to find it surprisingly quiet. We managed to find a Spotted Redshank for another year tick and Brian bagged an extra year tick with a Little Ringed Plover, that I had already seen at Broom GP's in Bedfordshire.