Tuesday 28 March 2017

Red-flanked Bluetail, Titchwell

A bonus trip to Norfolk this morning coincided with the presence of a Red-flanked Bluetail at Titchwell. Having first been found on Saturday the 25th, it was still present all day Sunday and we were hopeful it would still be present today.
On route, we stopped at Wolferton hoping to catch a glimpse of what is now likely to be the only surviving Golden Pheasant left at this site. We left without seeing it but heard it calling several times during our short stay.
Arriving at Titchwell, we headed for the Meadow Trail area and began to scan the surrounding areas for any sign of the Red-flanked Bluetail. Having wandered away from the main area news broke that the bird had been seen at the Western end of Meadow Trail. We quickly joined a small group of birders at the end of the boardwalk and were soon enjoying views of the bird as it appeared among the tangled branches and began feeding among the damp leaf litter. 
Heading along the main path a small flock of Knot and seven Red-crested Pochard were seen adding two more species to my year list.

Grey Plover

Leaving Titchwell we headed for New Holkham and Blunt's Corner where Brian quickly found the Pallid Harrier sitting in the bottom field. We also enjoyed close views of Red Kite, with at least five birds seen in the area.
A stop at Lynford on our way home failed to locate any Hawfinch but did provide good views of Crossbill close to the bridge and Brambling at the feeders along with Marsh Tit, Treecreeper and Nuthatch.

Saturday 25 March 2017

Landguard, Minsmere and North warren

Another Suffolk trip this morning, arriving at Landguard shortly after first light. A walk out towards the ranger's cottage in cold North-Easterly winds produced very little in the way of new arrivals. Just a few Chiffchaffs the only migrants seen. Linnets were present in good numbers along with six Ringed Plovers and several Shelduck.
A large container ship heading into port attracted large numbers of Gulls and Gannets and Brian picked out a real surprise in the form of a Pomarine Skua low across the water heading North.
A stop at Iken failed to produce any sightings of the long staying Cattle Egret despite checking all the favoured areas and surrounding fields.
Moving on to Minsmere and with time limited we dropped into Island Mere hide and watched several pairs of displaying Marsh Harriers over the reedbeds. At least seven Goosander were present on the water and Bearded Tits showed occasionally, but were more often heard than seen. On route to the Bittern hide, we had views of an Adder basking in the sun before it slipped away into deeper cover. Shortly after entering the Bittern hide a Bittern flew low over a section of reeds for a welcome year tick. A Water Rail and a Cetti's Warbler both showed well in front of the hide.

Bittern (Taken on a previous visit)

News of a Spoonbill came through, so we headed off to North Warren in search of it. A brief scan from one of the viewing platforms and we found the sleeping Spoonbill among a large flock of resting gulls.
Before heading for home we made another visit to Iken searching for the Cattle Egret but again it failed to appear.

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Dartford Warblers & Cattle Egret in Suffolk

A day's birding in Suffolk started with a visit to Iken, hoping the long staying Cattle Egret would make an appearance at first light. Unfortunately, after an hours search of the usual paddocks and surrounding fields, there was just a single Little Egret found.
From here we went in search of Dartford Warblers on the heath. Despite the blue skies and the sun shining the fierce winds made conditions difficult and despite a lengthy search we headed back to the car having failed to locate any Dartford Warblers. About to drive away two birds appeared in gorse by the roadside, Two Dartford Warblers! These were soon joined by five more individuals, and they happily fed among the gorse while we watched from the comfort of the car. As we watched a Sparrowhawk appeared on the grass right by the road. Flushed by a passing car it flew alongside our car and disappeared into the gorse causing panic among the Dartford Warblers. Happily, they soon resumed feeding among the gorse either side of the road.

At Minsmere  Entering the Wildlife Outlook (formerly Western Hide). We were told a pair of Garganey were sleeping behind a small island in front of the hide. Unfortunately, they remained hidden for the next hour. and when a passing raptor flies overhead flushing the pair I miss them because I'm watching an Otter fishing in a pool close by and then following two House Martins as they fly across in front of the hide. The Garganey had flown over the ridge in the middle of the scrape, with no chance of seeing them from Western Hide, we headed round to North Hide and after some scanning, with the scope, I managed to locate the pair tucked in the reeds some distant away. 
Before heading for home we made a return trip to Iken hoping the Cattle Egret would be showing. Luckily as we passed Sandy Lane the bird is spotted along the edge of the bottom paddock with a small herd of cattle.

Sunday 12 March 2017

Little Bunting: Great Barford, Bedfordshire

With the weather forecast not looking good this morning we decided on a relatively short trip to Great Barford in Bedfordshire. The Little Bunting had first been reported on the 31st January, and pretty much every day since. Some reports had said that it was difficult to locate and even more difficult to photograph. But to be honest it was just a matter of waiting for the bird to arrive and drop onto the seed. Photographing the bird proved far more difficult with the constant rain fall and heavy clouds.
Light rain had been falling on route and was still falling as we left the car. As we crossed the road a single Sand Martin was spotted flying around the Arch Bridge opposite The Anchor public house. After checking my records it's my earliest record of Sand Martin, beating the previous one by Twenty one days.
Initially we headed down river, luckily we hadn't gone far before realising we needed to head up river. We followed the path along the edge of the River Great Ouse and eventually found the bridge mentioned in the reports. Some seed had been scattered at the edge of a ploughed field by local Beds birders and soon several birds were dropping down to feed on it. 
The rain had by now turned into a constant heavy drizzle and although plenty of birds were feeding on the seed there was no sign of the Little Bunting. A singing Chiffchaff from a nearby tree gave me another welcome year tick before the target bird was spotted perched at the top of a bordering tree. It dropped down onto the seed and with several Reed Bunting for company allowed a nice comparison between the two species. We watched it come and go several times over the next couple of hours before heading for the car.

Nice opportunity to compare the two species side by side.

Reed Bunting

Arched Bridge

The early fifteen century arched Bridge marks the start of the walk up river.

Feeding Area

The trees on the right are used by the Bunting before dropping down to feed on seed along the corner edge of this ploughed field.

Sunday 5 March 2017

Pallid Harrier: New Holkham, Norfolk

With rain forecast almost everywhere this morning, we decided to take our chances and head for Norfolk and hopefully bag dad a lifer in the form of the recently reported Pallid Harrier.
On route we stop off along the A1065 to watch a couple of hunting Barn Owls. One disappears across the road and heads for thicker cover, while the other bird perches on roadside signs before resuming it's search for prey. A third Barn owl is seen shortly before we reach our original destination of New Holkham. 
Arriving shortly after first light we join a small group of birders already present. The bird had already been seen, but had been lost to view. Scanning the surrounding fields Brian spots the Harrier quartering the bottom field allowing some superb views. We stayed for a couple of hours with the Harrier spending most of this time hunting between the surrounding fields and hedge lines, At one point a Red Kite arrived on the scene and began mobbing it! After the Red Kite had lost interest in the Pallid Harrier it resumed quartering the bottom field and is then joined by a Merlin.

Pallid Harrier (B Anderson)

After the bird had disappeared from view, we left and went in search of the Shore Larks at Holkham. Expecting a long walk out towards the beach, we got lucky when seven Shore Larks were found feeding among the dunes in the bay. As we headed back towards the boardwalk two Cranes appeared over the top of the Pine trees, adding another welcome year tick.

A very brief stop off at Brancaster Staithe adding Bar-tailed Godwit to the year list before we moved on to Choseley in search of Grey Partridge. We found plenty of Red-legged Partridge at several spots along the road towards Choseley drying barns, and finally located two Greys at the edge of one of the fields.

Before heading for home we made a stop at Cockley Cley for a Great Grey Shrike. We Parked up by the Firebreak 109 sign and took the main track hoping we had picked the right path. Luckily as we reached the open area Brian picked out the Shrike low in a bush. 

On the return trip to the car, we picked up a Lesser Redpoll among a flock of Goldfinch in a roadside tree, and while scanning the surrounding trees the Shrike appeared in a tree on the opposite side of the road.