Sunday 31 January 2016

Dungeness. A few birds and a few drama's!

A late "local" trip instead turned into a 180 mile round trip to Dungeness!
Leaving home at 11am we set off hoping to connect with the Glaucous Gull which had been present for a few days. Rain fell for most of the journey and as we neared Dungeness the first drama was lack of Diesel in the car. Luckily there was a garage within site and between the car stalling and restarting across several sets of traffic lights we managed to crawl into the petrol station!
On arrival at Dungeness beach we scanned the sea and picked out several Kittiwakes for a year tick. There were continuous groups of a Guillemots moving through and among them were a few Razorbills for another year tick.
We made our way towards the Observatory checking all the wire fences and buildings for any Black Redstarts and were rewarded with a single bird perched up on the barb wire within the power station.
We returned to the gull roosts near the fishing boats and scanned each bird hoping the Glauc would be among them. There was no sign of the Glauc, but the Caspian Gull duly appeared.
Then more drama as the car failed to start and after several attempts to start it the AA had to be called out. An hour or so later and with the light almost now gone there was still no sign of the Glaucous Gull among the pre-roost. Luckily the AA had by now turned up and it wasn't long before we were up and running again. Just to end the day a guy decided to walk through the roosting gulls and flush the lot. Ending the last hope of locating the white winger among them.

Caspian Gull (from earlier trip)

Year list stands at 143 at the end of the first month.

Friday 29 January 2016

Startop's End Reservoir & Lemsford Springs, Hertfordshire

Having left home at 6.30, we arrived at Startop's End Reservoir at first light. We climbed the steps and were immediately hit by gale force winds blowing straight across the waters surface. Heading towards the hide for some shelter the 1st winter drake Scaup was spotted among a small group of Tufted Ducks. A scan from the hide failed to find any Red-Crested Pochard and trips to Wilstone Reservoir and College Lakes both relatively close by would also fail to produce sightings.
Making our way along the A41 a single Red Kite was spotted soaring high above the tree tops. Lemsford Springs is a small Nature Reserve with shallow lagoons. It's a reliable site for Green Sandpipers, and it didn't disappoint again today. At least three individuals were seen feeding among the watercress beds. 

 A single Grey Wagtail and two Little Egrets came in to feed while we watched the Sandpipers.

Sunday 24 January 2016

Suffolk Birding: Cattle Egret at Iken

Our first destination this morning was to be Alton Water, but having made good time we diverted to Christchurch Park, and found two pairs of Goosanders along with several pairs of Mandarin on one of the small pools within the park. 


It was a very grey and overcast start to the day, and it would remain the same throughout the entire day.
A Tawny Owl was found roosting in one of the park Oak trees. 

We moved on to Alton Water and quickly found two Black-necked Grebes at the Eastern end. But failed to find any sign of the Red-necked Grebe, despite driving round most of the water and walking several areas as well. A return to the Eastern end did however produce good views of a Great Northern Diver but  the Red-necked Grebe remained out of sight. 

Time was short so we moved onto Iken hoping to have better luck connecting with the Cattle Egret. Having drove around the  roads surrounding the Sandy Lane/Ferry Road junction, we finally found the Cattle Egret in the field directly in front of the farm itself, unsurprisingly with cattle.

It was then flushed by the farmer as he walked up the slope towards the farm buildings. Fortunately the bird was quickly re-found further along the road in a flooded field.

Before heading for home we stopped off a North Warren and after walking from the roadside to the viewing screen found the four Spoonbills feeding at the back of the fields in one of the pools.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Golden Pheasant finally shows itself!

Undecided on where to go this morning we found ourselves back at Flitcham and yet another try for the pallid Harrier! Even arriving at first light to optimise our chances we failed miserably. Six visits, six no shows. On the plus side there were a few good birds that did appear. Barn Owl, Merlin, Buzzard, Grey and Red-legged partridge, Brambling and Tree Sparrow were all noted.
After a few hours of searching for the Pallid Harrier it was beginning to feel all to familiar. We decided to head to Wolferton and hope the Golden Pheasant would show itself this morning. We parked up on the North West side of the triangle allowing us good views along the verges.
Having had as much luck with the Pheasant as the Pallid Harrier we wasn't feeling very optimistic, but Brian soon noticed movement at the edge of the Rhododendrons, at first just the golden head was visible but soon it emerged to feed at the roadside.

We returned to Flitcham, but again there was no sign of the Pallid, so we headed for home. The fields around Welney held flocks of feeding Whooper Swans, and a brief stop at Pymoor produced distant views of both Whooper and Bewick's Swans.

Very distant Whooper Swans


Tuesday 12 January 2016

Lee Valley: Back on my old patch

Not so many years ago Lee Valley particularly the Fisher's Green area used to be my "local patch". It's hard to believe it's been almost 8 months since my last visit!
Today I made a brief visit hoping to add a couple of year ticks to my list. Arriving around 8.30am I headed for the Bittern hide hoping a Bittern would show itself. A Ring-necked Parakeet visited the feeders right outside the hide windows and a Water Rail walked across the channel, but there was no sight of any Bitterns. Back at the car park there were good numbers of Redwings feeding among the leaf litter .
After driving down to the car park at the bottom of Fisher's Green Lane I headed for Hall Marsh Scrape and added a Common Snipe to the year list. While scanning Friday Lake for any sign of Goosander two redhead Smew flew across the lake and settled on the water.

Returning to Hall Marsh Scrape we viewed the scrape from the hide. A Mistle Thrush feeding on the grass became my third addition to the year list, but very little else was seen from here.

Having still not seen any Goosander, we dropped in at Connaught Water before returning home. Brian had seen a pair here on Sunday. A short time after leaving the car park a male Goosander is found swimming between two of the islands. 

Sunday 10 January 2016

A morning birding in Kent

We kicked off the mornings birding at Capel Fleet, arriving at first light to watch several Marsh Harriers leaving the roost site. Unfortunately no Hen Harriers could be found with them. A year tick was added when a flock of Corn Bunting flew across the road and landed in a nearby hawthorn bush, a regular and reliable site for them in recent years.

With a Richard's Pipit still being reported at the Swale NNR site, this was to be our next stop. The track leading to the far end car park was pot holed and very uneven. If you haven't got a bad back you probably will have after this!
As we walked the sea wall the Richard's Pipit flew up and over our heads calling. Instead of walking back to try to re-locate it we continued on towards the far corner and found a large group of White-fronted Geese feeding in the far corner of the next field.  Brian scoping the large flock of Brent Geese on the far hillside had managed to pick out the Hooded Crow in flight. Several minutes later I found it feeding among the grass allowing good scope views.
As we began our walk back a Merlin flew fast and low across the sea wall and sat up allowing for great scope views. As we approached the car park the Richard's Pipit took to the air and landed in the short grass just across the ditch running alongside the field. Again allowing for some very nice scope views. I also managed to add Skylark and a male Stonechat to the year list while we drove (bounced) back along the entrance track.

Close to Swale NNR was Bartons Point in Minster. Which just so happened to have been hosting a single Shore Lark for the last few days. We walked the shingle bank noting several small groups of Ringed Plover and Dunlin. The Shore Lark was soon found among the shingle. Eventually giving good views as it began to feed among the vegetation opposite Bartons Point.

Shore Lark

We ended our mornings birding with a drive along the entrance track at Elmley, but apart from several flocks of Lapwings there were no other waders present despite improving water levels. 

A Buzzard was found on a fence post and several more Marsh Harriers were also observed before heading for home.

Year list now stands at 123

Saturday 9 January 2016

Pallid Harrier dipped yet again!!

With limited time today the plan was to spend the morning at Lynford Arboretum and head for home around 1pm. But with the Pallid Harrier being reported again yesterday the lure proved too much and we headed for Flitcham. Arriving at 8.30am to be told that the Pallid had been seen at 8.05am and had not been seen since. Having already dipped this bird several times since Christmas it was not a surprise when it failed to show in the time we were there! In fact it wouldn't be reported again all day.
A quick stop at Wolferton and then Fisher's Fleet in King's Lynn produced nothing other than dipped Golden Pheasant and Iceland Gull!

In fact the only positive to this morning were several sightings of  Barn Owls. One individual was found hunting along the roadside verges. Unfortunately the light was awful for the camera. 

So it was back to the original plan, and a visit to Lynford Arboretum. We headed for the paddock and found a single Hawfinch feeding at the top of one of the trees.
We continued along the path heading towards the bridge. A Treecreeper was found in trees at the edge of the lake, before reaching the bridge. Seed had been left on the four corners of the bridge and this had the birds regularly coming down to feed. My fourth year tick of the morning came when two Nuthatch came in with the more numerous Coal and Marsh Tits.

Year List 114

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Kent Birding, Lashing rain & gale force winds!

Nice early start, leaving home in Essex at 5.30am with light rain falling. It was to get a lot heavier throughout the day!
Before making our way to Kent, we made a shortish detour to East Sussex hoping to connect with the Glossy Ibis at Pett Level. As we drove along Pett Level road the rain really began to fall, gale force winds and  lashing rain made visibility impossible. As the rain eased off a little we started scanning the coots at the West end, but failed to find the Ibis among them. We decided to drive back towards the main pool and scan the Coots on the far bank of Col Body Memorial Lake closest to the road. As we approached I caught sight of the Ibis on the near bank. Despite the conditions a good start to the day!

Before heading for Dungeness, there was a brief stop at Scotney GPs. Scanning through a group of Tufted and Wigeon a Black-necked Grebe was found. Asleep for most of the time it awoke briefly when another group of wigeon flew in. The lashing rain again forced us back into the car, and this would be the story throughout the day.

We pulled into Dungeness around 9.30am and with the rain still falling heavily, we headed for the nearest hide (Dennis's ). We were greeted by three friendly staff members who were busy cleaning the hide and window slots. A quick Scan of the Northern section of Burrowes Pit produced three female Goldeneye but very little else.
With the rain showing signs of easing, we headed for the dipping pool and connected with the LEO instantly. I managed to grab a couple of record shots with my phone hand held to my scope before the rain really lashed down and we had to take shelter in Firth hide.

As soon as there was a gap in the rain, we headed for Makepeace hide and soon picked out two drake Goldeneye and four females. Much more of a surprise was the presence of a Shag! It headed for the nearest island giving great views standing among the roosting Cormorants. Another birder found a redhead Smew close to a group of Coots and we soon managed to locate it.
Just before leaving the reserve we spotted one of the Great White Egrets among the reeds on the pool near Boulderwall Farm. A visit to Arc Pit proved less productive, water levels had risen considerably and covered all of the islands, thus limiting the birds present. A redhead Smew several pairs of Goldeneye and another Great White Egret were the best we could manage.

The beach at Dungeness was our next stop, scanning all the small groups of gulls along the road failed to locate any Caspian Gulls among them. So with a brief gap in the rain we foolishly decided to head for the fishing boats and a short seawatch! as we approached the boats the rain began and it got heavier and heavier, until we had to take shelter under one of the two hulled boats. This protected us from the rain but served as a wind tunnel, The sea was alive with Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants with a small group of Guillemots also seen relatively close. The walk back to the car was interrupted by more heavy rain and again we had to take shelter, we still didn't make it back to the car without getting soaked!
Another group of gulls caught the eye as we drove past the fish hut. With the aid of a few slices of bread we managed to entice them closer, and were pleased to find a Caspian Gull among them.

We left the beach and took a quick drive along Galloways Road and after several scans of the surrounding fields managed good flight views of a Raven. As we pulled out of Galloways, news broke that there was a Slav Grebe on pools by Boulderwall Farm. A quick drive back to the reserve and the Slav Grebe was quickly located before heading for home.

The weather was grim all day, but it didn't stop us connecting with some good birds throughout the day.

Saturday 2 January 2016

New year's day birding in Norfolk

The new year started with a visit to King's Lynn searching for the juvenile Iceland Gull. In the semi darkness we were the first to arrive, but there was no sign of the bird, as daylight arrived so did many other birders. An hour or so later there was still no sign, A pair of Peregrine up on the nearby tower was a nice find before we moved on to Wolferton. After a couple of circuits of the triangle there was no sign and with time short we headed for Flitcham hoping to finally connect with the Pallid Harrier.
Having already dipped this bird on three separate occasions last year, the first day of 2016 was no different! Although the Pallid didn't show, the farmland fields were productive for year ticks. Tree Sparrow, Brambling, Yellowhammer, Red-legged and Grey Partridge all seen here.

Stopping at Choseley we quickly connected with one and then both Rough-legged Buzzards hunting along the top hedge line. A scan from Thornham car park unsurprisingly failed to locate the Shorelarks on the beach. Twite proved much easier to see as a flock of 20+ birds fed close by and a Greenshank was a nice find. 

Titchwell would deliver several good species during a brief visit. The feeders around the centre were being visited by Brambling, Marsh, Coal and Long-tailed Tits and a single Lesser Redpoll and a small flock of Siskin were feeding in the tree tops. The dried up pools on the Thornham side of the reserve added three species of pipit, with Water, Rock and Meadow all seen. A short sea watch only added Common Scoter, which poured through in huge numbers.

A stop at Holkham failed to find the Great White Egret reported from here but it did add White-fronted Goose, with a sizable flock feeding  in fields in front of the pines.
With light fading fast we headed for Stiffkey and connected with a superb male Hen Harrier hunting the salt marsh. 

I ended the day on 84 species.