Sunday 17 December 2017

Parrot Crossbills, Upper Hollesley Common

A visit to Santon Downham on the 3rd December failed to produce any Parrot Crossbills. During a five hour visit, the best I managed was a couple of flight calls and a possible single bird high up in a distant Pine tree that disappeared before I could get the scope on it.

With encouraging news yesterday of a small group still in the Hollesley Common area we decided to make the trip this morning.  Arriving just after 8am we headed off along the path towards their favoured drinking pool carefully avoiding breaking the ice covering puddles along the track so as to hopefully encourage the birds to visit the same pool again this morning as in previous days.
We spent the first three hours standing under a large Pine tree surrounded by the calls of Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Stonechat and several Dartford Warblers but we hadn't managed any sightings of Crossbill. Then a small flock of birds were spotted flying into the distant line of Pine trees. After a brief feeding session, they again took flight and eventually landed in the tree we were standing under. Another brief feeding session and they headed down to the drinking pool.

With heavy rain forecast for most of the afternoon, we decided to head a few miles up the road and visit Hazelwood Common hopefully to connect with the Coues's Arctic Redpoll. Luckily within minutes of arriving the bird was found feeding among the stubble of the set-aside. 

Saturday 25 November 2017

American Horned Lark, Staines Reservoir

American Horned Lark of nominate form ( alpestris, praticola, hoyti) was found at Staines Reservoir on the 24th. A short trip around the M25 this morning was felt warranteed. Parking up in Stanwell Moor Road, it's a short walk up the ramp to the causeway. Joining the birders already present it wasn't long before the bird was located.

A really smart looking bird, hopefully the split will come sometime in the near future. But even if it doesn't it was still well worth the trip.

Sunday 19 November 2017

Dartford Warblers at Dungeness

An early morning trip to Dungeness was the order of the day.

There had been reports recently of a Dartford Warbler seen in the scrub around the Britannia Pub. Arriving shortly after 7am and with the likely looking areas bordering the road, we decided to scan from the car. A period of driving, stopping and scanning followed. Eventually, I located a Stonechat in the gorse and thinking the Dartford Warbler may be feeding in their company we concentrated the search in this area. A pair of Stonechat popped up onto the top of the gorse and then Brian spotted the Dartford Warbler feeding low in a channel close to the roadside.


Dartford Warbler

A second Dartford Warbler had also been reported earlier in the week and it eventually appeared close to the bird we were watching, but it failed to show well enough to grab a photo of both birds together.

On the way home, we stopped at Elmley and tried to locate the reported six Jack Snipe. The report had said "At least six on the right after the last cattle grid towards the car park" But this area was clearly not suitable. We drove back down the track scanning more suitable areas,  but we failed to locate any of the birds. Several Buzzards were seen perched on various posts either side of the entrance track, and a Marsh Harrier and Merlin were also seen. At the entrance, a small covey of Red-legged partridge were seen feeding in a recently ploughed area of the field. 

Monday 13 November 2017

Norfolk Seawatching from the "Cley Beach Hotel"

The weather forecast yesterday evening was predicting North Westerly winds blowing up to 50mph. So with that in mind this morning we headed for Norfolk.
We parked up in the Cley Beach car park and joined the assembled Twenty plus birders already present. With the shelter fully occupied we joined the line of birders outside on the East side. The winds had not yet picked up in strength and were more Westerly than North Westerly. There was very little movement at sea for the first couple of hours but a flock of 25-30 Snow buntings were a very welcome distraction in the bitterly cold conditions. As the wind grew in strength we had our first and only views of a Little auk as it headed East.
With the winds twisting round more towards the North and the rain beginning to fall, we headed for Cley Visitor Centre for much-needed refreshments before heading back to the beach.
Back at Cley, we managed to squeeze into the shelter and found bird passage had improved somewhat from this morning. Several groups of Kittiwakes (Adult & Juveniles) headed West, Bonxies were seen at regular intervals, and a group of four headed East to West and flew past the shelter at close range. 
The bird of the day though had to be the juvenile Glaucous Gull that flew along the beach straight past the shelter just a few metres away.

Sea passage was not as we had hoped for, but along with the single Little Auk, Kittiwakes, and Bonxies, several other species were noted including Little Gull, Caspian Gull, Common Scoter, Guillemot, Great Crested Grebe, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, Red-throated Diver, Brent geese, Wigeon and a single Bar-tailed Godwit.

On route home, we managed to locate the two Cattle Egrets in the flooded field South of the A149.

Monday 6 November 2017

Dusky Warbler: Sandwich Bay, Kent

Not sure of which direction to take this morning, we eventually decided to head towards Kent and hope the Dusky Warbler had remained overnight. Two hours later we arrive at Sandwich Bay. This being a private estate there is a toll charge to enter. A normal day ticket is £7 per car, but if you are going to the Bird Observatory it will only cost you £1.

Toll Hut

Helped by directions from the previous day. ("c300m North of the Chequers pub and just North of golf course reservoir by Ancient highway"), Having quickly found the area, we gained some height by using the large sandhill overlooking the area.Almost immediately the "tak" call was heard and soon afterwards the bird was seen. It regularly gave it's "tak" call allowing us to narrow down its location. For a skulking bird, this individual showed extremely well. It would flit around among the gorse and ground vegetation, but would regularly visit an Elderberry among the gorse allowing for some superb views. 

Apart from a couple of Brambling calling overhead the only other highlight was a Woodcock that flew low overhead and seemed to land among the gorse near the roadside.

Dusky Warbler

Before heading for home we stopped off at Oare Marshes and with the tide in on the estuary, large numbers of waders were roosting on the flood. Hundreds of Golden Plover, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits were present. Brian picked out a Purple Sandpiper among the Dunlin and we managed to get a local group on the bird. The Long-billed Dowitcher was still present and spent most of its time asleep, but did wake and start feeding eventually. 

Along with the usual Avocets, Lapwings and Redshank several other birds were found among the large flocks including four Greenshank, several Grey Plover and single Spotted Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Bar-tailed Godwit. The sight of the large flocks of Dunlin and Golden Plover in flight was a fitting end to the days birding.

Sunday 29 October 2017

Common Rock Thrush: Pwll-du, Gwent

An afternoon dash along the M4 on Saturday 20th proved to be very frustrating. Despite reports throughout the morning and continued reports on route, we arrived on site to learn that the bird had been flushed and had flown from it's favoured feeding area and was last seen disappearing into the valley opposite the quarry. Despite prolonged searches throughout the afternoon and into the early evening we headed back along the footpath in darkness without any sightings of the bird. 

Brian unable to sleep made the 360 mile round trip again on Sunday morning and after another search was rewarded when the bird made an appearance in the 3rd quarry.

I thought my chance of seeing this bird had gone, but Brian gave me another chance when he decided to make a third trip this morning!
After remembering the clocks were due to go back we left home at 4.30am and arrived three hours later to find plenty of cars already parked up. After a brisk mile-long walk along the edge of the quarry, we joined the assembled group of birders to find the Rock Thrush feeding on a grass bank just feet away!  

We enjoyed stunning views of the bird throughout our 5-hour visit. 

The Rock Thrush seemed to follow a routine of feeding among the short grass, then visiting an area where someone had left some mealworms and then returning to the rocks to rest up for short periods only to repeat the same routine a short time later albeit with a visit to one of the small puddles left by overnight rain.

So thanks to Brian making the trip for a third time, just the1080 miles! I finally managed to see this stunning bird.

Monday 9 October 2017

American Wigeon: Rutland Water, Leicestershire

Leaving at 5.30am this morning, with a plan to head Northward along the A1 and if the Scops Owl was found roosting we could continue up to Ryhope and view the bird.

Arriving at Rutland water nice and early, we headed off along the footpath towards Smew Hide. The hide looks out across Lagoon II, and the American Wigeon was quickly located feeding among a flock of Eurasian Wigeon.

American Wigeon

With no news on the Scops Owl, we decided to have a search for Willow Tits at a site we have had success with on previous occasions. On the walk down to the first hide, Brian and I heard a Willow Tit calling. Your best chance of seeing Willow tits here are when the feeders have been filled-up. While waiting we were entertained by a Kingfisher that landed on the posts at the water's edge. A Snipe emerged from the reeds and two Green Sandpipers dropped in.

The trees around the feeders are frequently used before the birds drop down to feed, plenty of birds were visiting. All the usual suspects were regularly seen including Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Chaffinch and a stunning male Bullfinch made a brief appearance.

It took an hour and a half, but eventually, we were finally rewarded with a visit from a Willow Tit!

Willow Tit

Saturday 7 October 2017

Long-billed Dowitcher & Wilson's Phalarope in Kent

A little bonus trip this afternoon, and after braving the mid-day traffic we eventually arrived at Oare Marshes. Normally on our, dawn visits, there are very few cars and parking is easy. Today the place was packed!
Water levels had dropped considerably from our last visit and there were large numbers of birds taking advantage. Both the main target birds, Long-billed Dowitcher and Wilson's Phalarope were quickly found with both happily feeding in front of the viewing area on the West side along the entrance track. 

Alongside these two North American vagrants, there were plenty of supporting cast members with 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 3 Little Stint, 2 Ruff a single Greenshank and Water rail. Large flocks of roosting Dunlin, Golden Plover and Black-tailed Godwits were very obvious along with good numbers of Ringed Plover, Avocet, Redshank and Lapwing.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Red-throated pipit, Landguard NR

At 9.45am yesterday morning a Red-throated Pipit was found at Landguard NR. It remained at the Southern end of the common throughout the day. With only four accepted records of Red-throated pipit in Suffolk, the last of which was at Minsmere in 2001, this individual had many Suffolk birders hurrying to Landguard to bag a very welcome county tick. 
With heavy overnight rain forecast, we thought there was a good chance of the bird still being present this morning. Light rain was falling on route but it had ceased by the time we pulled into the car park along View Point Road. Leaving the car we headed along the path in front of the Observatory and made our way towards the Wardens Cottage. As we approached, we could see a small group of birders including LGRE scanning the shingle and grass near the boardwalk. The bird had been heard calling and had been seen briefly in the company of a couple of Meadow Pipits. As we started scanning the area the bird flew directly overhead calling. It dropped down onto the short grass and began feeding close to the concrete blocks.
It fed on the common for 15-20 minutes and then relocated to an area a short distance from the warden's cottage. I managed a few record shots using the phone held to the scope.

Red-throated pipit 

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Red-necked Grebe: Roding Valley Lake, 3rd Visit

I made another brief visit to Roding Valley Lake this afternoon hoping the Red-necked Grebe would still be present. A quick scan from the West bank and I found it out in the middle of the lake.
I turned away from the lake as a Common Buzzard drifted across the cricket pitch and a Sparrowhawk flew across the top of the Willow Trees near the water's edge.
I'm not sure if the Buzzard or Sparrowhawk had spooked the Grebe, but it was nowhere to be seen when I scanned the lake again. No sign of it at it's favoured Southern end or along the Eastern side. Having walked around most of the lake, noting two Little Egret, three Grey Heron and two Terrapins (Red-eared) possibly? I eventually found the Grebe drifting along with a small group of Coots. The weather was dull and overcast and the Grebe remained distant, but I took a few shots all the same.

The local Canada Geese approached much closer. Trying to grab some of the attention away from the star bird.

Sunday 24 September 2017

Red-necked Grebe, Roding Valley Lake

As twitches go, there won't be a closer one to home than this. A five minute amble across the field and I'm standing at the edge of the lake. I had a quick look on Friday evening, but the light was fading fast and I only managed brief scope views before the light disappeared completely.
The weather forecast today was much more favourable and with the sun shining mid-morning I took another stroll over to the lake. It had been favouring the Southern corner for the majority of its stay, but upon arrival, the Grebe was way over in the Northern corner close to the over-hanging branches of the bankside Willows. However, within 15-20 minutes it soon returned to its favoured Southern corner. Cue the cameras!

Sunday 17 September 2017

Spotted Crake, Ingrebourne Valley

Another short trip today and a visit to the Ingrebourne Valley, where a Spotted Crake had been located yesterday. Arriving shortly after 8am, It's a short walk from the car park to the viewing screen, but there had been no sign of the bird so far this morning. After 30-45 minutes of scanning, Brian and his lucky jumper picked the bird out. It was moving through the short reeds to the left of the viewing area. It spent the next hour playing hide 'n' seek with us. Showing well at times, but it didn't like open ground and would run from one area of cover to the next.

Spotted Crake

Another year tick added to the list today and the last four days have produced 2 lifers and six year ticks.

Saturday 16 September 2017

White-winged Black Tern at Tyttenhanger

After yesterday's trip to Lodmoor and Portland in Dorset and the five-hour drive home, we stayed much closer to home today. Just a twenty-mile drive along the M25 and we arrive at Tyttenhanger fishing lakes.
The Tern had first been reported on the 12th originally having been reported as a Black Tern but quickly re-identified as a White-winged Black Tern. It had Favoured Willow Farm Fishing Lake throughout its stay. Park in Willows Activity Farm car park, follow the footpath to the river and cross the bridge to view. 

That was what we should have done, but unsure of the location we instead drove round to the fishing lake tackle shop. Luckily the guy running the Carp fishing lakes allowed us through the gate and to drive round to the bottom lake (Willows). This would not normally be allowed, but we were grateful he allowed it today.

The moulting adult was seen immediately on arrival, Putting on a superb aerial display throughout our visit.

Friday 15 September 2017

Least & Stilt Sandpipers at Lodmoor

A surprise text from Brian last night, and we are meeting up at 4.30am this morning heading for Dorset. Arriving around 7.30 we quickly fed the car park meter and headed off towards the Bandstand to view the scrape. Luckily the small group of gathered birders put us onto the Least Sandpiper immediately. It was busy feeding along the back edge of the scrape.

Little Stint & Least Sandpiper

While viewing the Least Sandpiper we are told that the Stilt Sandpiper had been seen earlier but that it had flown to an area out of view. We moved round to the Western footpath and began scanning the birds present. After a few brief scans, a single bird flew in from the South. Checking it out through the scope confirms the ID as the Stilt Sandpiper. Two lifers within an hour of arriving!

Stilt Sandpiper

Moving on to Portland, we receive negative news on the Buff-Breasted Sandpiper, so move on to the Observatory Quarry and after a brief scan, we locate the Wryneck tucked away among the rocks on the opposite side of the Quarry. It briefly appears on the rocks and then drops down onto the Quarry floor.

The Buff-Breasted Sandpiper despite a lengthy search remained elusive and didn't re-appear. The Hoopoe proved just as elusive and we failed to find it during our visit.

Sunday 10 September 2017

Citrine Wagtail, Minsmere RSPB

Pulling into the car park at Minsmere this morning, we headed off along the North path to find the East Scrape covered in sea mist. Visibility was poor with only the island directly in front of the hide clearly visible. 
An hour or so later and the mist began to clear and a more detailed scan of the scrape could begin. Several Pied Wagtails were showing well and while scanning through these the Citrine Wagtail appeared. Landing on the long grass bank it quickly dropped below the bank and out of view. It took flight and during the next two hours, it favoured a small island around post 9. Eventually, it took flight again and headed towards the area around the West Hide and was lost to view.

Good numbers of other birds were feeding out on the scrape and these included Green and Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Ruff, Snipe, Water Rail, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Lapwing and Dunlin. 

We made our way round to the West Hide and managed to re-locate the Citrine Wagtail close to number 2 post. It remained distant but Brian managed to grab the photo below.

Citrine Wagtail