Sunday, 30 April 2017

Kentish Plover: Pitstone Quarry

A trip to Abberton Reservoir yesterday proved very frustrating. It Started well enough with views of Black Tern flying over the Reservoir from Lodge Lane viewpoint on arrival. But the Bonaparte's Gull failed to show despite scans from several locations and it was the same outcome when I failed to find any Arctic Terns among the numerous Common Terns. 
The mistake of the day was when news broke of the continued presence of the Kentish Plover at The Naze. We foolishly decided to drive the extra thirty miles for it. On arrival, we were told it was an hour's walk to the area and that if not back by 3pm you could get cut off by the incoming tide. Luckily we spoke to a couple of birders who had just returned and were told the report of the bird's presence had been erroneous and that there had been no sightings all day!

Monday 1st May

Breakfast this morning was interrupted by news of another Kentish Plover sighting. This time at Pitstone Quarry on the Herts, Bucks border. Forty miles from home, it wasn't long before we were on route. Upon arrival, we managed to find a parking space opposite the entrance to the woodland path and had soon joined the assembled birders. A quick scan of the area and the Kentish Plover is located.

Pitstone Quarry

While we were present it spent most of its time feeding among the sandy soil in between the pools and would occasionally be chased by a Little Ringed Plover. Although it was still present when we left a couple of hours later, it didn't hang around much longer and was seen flying off shortly before mid-day. 

A very rewarding trip after yesterday's frustrations.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Dotterel Therfield, Hertfordshire

An early afternoon report of four Dotterel present in a bare field at Therfield in Hertfordshire had to be worth a visit. A thirty-five mile drive up the A10 encountering sun, rain and a hail storm on route before we could start searching for the bare field between Therfield and Reed End. Luckily another birder had put out a grid reference to the location, which proved a huge help in finding the field. Parking up at the junction of Mill Lane we headed up along the dirt track and found a handful of birders already on site.

Reaching the corner of the field all four Dotterel could be seen feeding in the far bottom corner. Two very smart looking females and two males. They fed along the ridge and would drop down and disappear from time to time before reappearing.

Three of the four Dotterel

The adjoining fields also held good numbers of Yellowhammer and several Grey Partridge were seen nearby and in fields bordering Haywood Lane. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Minsmere alive with Warblers

Having arrived at Minsmere later than expected due to the A12 closure, we headed off towards Island Mere hide. The reedbed was alive with the sound of "pinging" Bearded Tits, and it wasn't long before several birds were seen. Sedge and Reed Warblers were also very vocal with both species showing extremely well among the reeds either side of the hide. The real target though was the Savi's warbler that had first been reported on the 19th. We managed to hear several short bursts of song during our visit but views of the bird proved much more difficult. 

Savi's Warbler (taken in 2014)

The scrub areas around the hide and Adder trail were alive with several species of Warbler including Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, and Cetti's Warbler. Bitterns were "Booming" close by and we could still hear the Savi's singing in the background. A Common Buzzard was joined by a Sprawk giving close views as they drifted across the blue skies and a Weasel made a brief appearance as it crossed the footpath in front of us. We failed to find the Stone Curlew in the fields from North Wall but did locate a couple of Wheatear in the same area.

We moved on the Boyton Marshes where I failed to see the two Cranes that flew over in the far distance. Eight Whimbrel feeding in a nearby field were much more obvious and a welcome year tick.

From here it was a short drive to Hollesley Marshes. A prolonged scan of the grazing marshes and scrape areas finally produced the hoped for Wood Sandpiper. Good numbers of Ruff and Snipe and a single Common Sandpiper were all present on the scrape along with the usual wildfowl. Before leaving another Whimbrel dropped in on the Grazing marsh along with several Yellow Wagtails.

Another good days birding adding four more year ticks and going past the 200 this year.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Lee Valley. First Nightingale returns

I made a brief visit to Fishers Green early Saturday morning. Walking across the bridge towards the sub station gate I heard a very short burst of Nightingale song. I waited for it to erupt into full song but it never happened. Continuing past the sub station and crossing the Bailey bridge I began searching the scrub area. Low temperatures and windy conditions didn't help with finding any new arrivals. Thirty minutes of searching had only produced a pair of Blackcap and several Chiffchaff. As I was thinking of moving on the distinctive "reeling" of a Grasshopper Warbler started up. It sang for the next twenty minutes but always from deep cover.
I took the same route back towards the car and was rewarded with a Nightingale now in full song. Photo below is from a previous visit.


Sunday 16th April

This morning I made another brief visit, this time to KGV Reservoir in Chingford. After negotiating the dodgy padlock on the gate (falls apart after you turn the key) we made our way up the slope and began scanning the South basin. Very little was found on the water but on the jetty by the boat hut we found two Common Sandpipers, and a Grey Wagtail. 

Common Sandpiper

A complete circuit of the South basin added my first Common Whitethroat of the year along with several Linnets and a cracking pair of Wheatears were found on the West side on the return walk.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Ring Ouzels on Mersea Island

Shortly after passing the gate at Landguard early this morning, we had a very brief view of a possible female Ring Ouzel. The call was right and a very brief view of the bird on the ground seemed to show silver in the wings. Unfortunately, it took flight almost immediately after landing and headed towards the area around the ranger's cottage. Several searches failed to produce any sightings among the numerous Blackbirds found. The concrete blocks and short cut grass were alive with Wheatears, with at least twelve seen. We again failed to locate the Black Redstart but picked out a single Little Ringed Plover among the Ringed Plovers.

From here we headed back into Essex with a visit to Mersea Island. Parking up at the far end of East Mersea Road, we took the footpath to the sea wall and continued walking until we came to the second paddock. We scanned the paddock but failed to find any Ring Ouzels, however, another Wheatear was found and close by was a stunning male Yellow Wagtail. Then both male Ring Ouzels flew from a nearby Hawthorn bush and began feeding within the paddock. 

They would follow this pattern throughout our three-hour stay. Flying up into the Hawthorn bushes and then dropping back down to feed shortly afterwards. Before leaving my first Swallow of the year was seen hawking low over the grass within the paddock.

A brief visit to Abberton on the way home added another Little Ringed Plover along with a distant Scaup but we failed to locate the Velvet Scoter.

Abberton Reservoir

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Breckland Birding at Cavenham Heath

We started the day searching for the White Stork in Sudbury. But after an hour of scanning the paddocks and surrounding areas of Sackers Green, we failed to find the bird.
From here we spent the rest of the morning at Cavenham Heath. After negotiating the deeply potholed sandy track we quickly picked out two Stone-Curlews on the heath. Skylarks were very evident as were several Woodlarks. A walk out onto the heath provided close views of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.

Willow Warbler

Woodlarks were singing from trees and giving their "parachuting" display flights. A Cuckoo gave a single call in the distance and was eventually located in a Beech tree. 


Cuckoo (B Anderson)

On the drive out a pair of Grey Partridge were spotted feeding among the short grass. With gunshots heard in the distance they were rightly cautious.

Grey Partridge


The final stop of the day would be to Santon Downham, where we heard a pair of Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers calling. But again failed to get any views of the birds. Nuthatches were very vocal and Brambling, Redpoll and Siskin all showed well in scrub bordering the river.
Woodlarks were again seen here, with several birds displaying from trees and the ground.


Saturday, 8 April 2017

Black-winged Stilts, Vange Marsh

I've already had two opportunities to see Black-winged Stilts this year, firstly a pair at Bowers Marsh on the 30th March and then a single bird at Vange Marsh on the 1st April. So when news broke of four birds present at Vange again this morning it was an opportunity too good to miss. 
A quick trip along the A13 and forty minutes later we are parked up and crossing the railway tracks and heading towards the marsh. There was only a handful of birders present on arrival but importantly two of the Black-winged Stilts were showing extremely well in front of the North bank.

The second pair were later located in the far North Western corner. Several Common Snipe were present along with a single Jack Snipe. The Common Snipe were much more active than the Jack Snipe, but when a pair of Coot came crashing through the reeds the Jack Snipe jumped up and gave great views as it began it's "bouncing" action while feeding.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Long-eared Owl still showing at Dungeness

Dungeness beach early this morning was covered in a thick blanket of fog, visibility was very poor and the new lighthouse was blasting out it's warning to passing ships.
As the sun came up, the fog cleared and my first Wheater of the year appeared among the shingle and on the concrete blocks this was quickly followed by two more. A brief seawatch from the hide in very calm conditions produced very little movement, I did, however, manage to add Sandwich Tern and a newly arrived Common Tern to the year list.
A brief search around the observatory and surrounding area failed to provide any Black Redstart sightings but we had good views of a pair of Raven over the far end of the power station.
Leaving the beach and heading back towards the reserve, we stopped to scan the water either side of the causeway. Three Black-necked Grebe and a single Slav Grebe were still present on New Diggings and a Great White Egret was found on Arc Pit.
Pulling into the reserve, we stopped at Cook's pool to find the Ring-necked Duck still present. First reported in early November it's approaching its sixth month on site.
While watching the Ring-necked Duck the first Sedge Warblers of the year were heard calling from nearby vegetation and later seen further along the track. Another two Wheatear were also seen feeding among the short grass and shingle as we approached the car park. With time short we made a quick visit to the dipping pond and found one of the Long-eared Owls showing well.

Long-eared Owl (B Anderson)

A drive along the entrance track at Elmley on route home produced the usual suspects, Redshank, Lapwing, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Grey Heron and Marsh Harrier but the hoped for Yellow Wagtails had not yet arrived.

Meadow Pipit