Sunday 23 July 2017

Bonaparte's Gull: Oare Marshes, Kent

Another trip this morning to Oare Marshes. Arriving shortly after 6am we parked up along the entrance road and began scanning  East Flood. Looking East directly into the sun made viewing difficult. There was no sign of the Bonaparte's, but a group of nine adult Curlew Sandpiper were found feeding among a small group of Dunlin for a welcome year tick. A sizable flock of Black-tailed Godwits were present with good numbers of Avocets as well as several Ruff and at least three Snipe and a single Spotted Redshank.
It was low tide so we moved on to the causeway and began scanning the foreshore for the Bonaparte's Gull and found it midway between the slipway and the hide.

Along with the Bonaparte's Gull, there were three Whimbrel and several more Black-tailed Godwits also feeding on the mud.

East Flood from the entrance track

With news that the Marsh Sandpiper at Cliffe had relocated to Radar Pool, we made a brief visit on the way home. Unfortunately, the Marsh Sandpiper had been flushed by a Peregrine sometime earlier and didn't show during our visit. We weren't too disappointed as we had already seen the bird the previous week. Large numbers of Greenshank were present as well as two Common Sandpipers.
Leaving Cliffe and heading towards the M2, we came across a massive flock of hirundines, numbering over a thousand birds. Not a bad ending to a very enjoyable morning birding.

Saturday 22 July 2017

Manx Shearwater: KGV Reservoir, Chingford

A Manx Shearwater reported on the King George Reservoir yesterday was very unexpected. Thinking it would have moved on overnight and that I had missed my chance, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that it was still present this morning.
Heading up the ramp I joined a couple of birders who confirmed that the Manx was still on site. A quick scan with the scope and the bird is found. It remained distant in the North West corner of the South basin during my visit. With the wind picking up the bird would appear and disappear among the waves. 

Mainly just drifting among the waves I was treated to a couple of wing flaps and a nice flight view as it moved away from the causeway heading back towards the buoy.

Saturday 15 July 2017

Vagrant Emperor: Minsmere RSPB

While dipping the Roseate Tern at Minsmere this morning, we came across this Dragonfly very close to the footpath soon after leaving the South Hide while heading towards the sluice. After returning home I checked several online sites for an ID. Unable to confirm the species I posted the photo below on Twitter asking for help. The replies all seemed to confirm it to be a Vagrant Emperor! 

Vagrant Emperor
The photo was taken at 9.41 this morning and I have included two maps below of the reserve and the area where I took the photograph using my iphone.

PS: I was asked to submit the sighting to the  "British Dragonfly Society Migrant Dragonfly Project & Suffolk Dragonfly Recorder" Adrian Parr.

Below is the reply I received from Adrian.

Hi James,
Many thanks indeed for the photo and information. Yes, this is a female Vagrant Emperor - congratulations on the find! Nationally, there were several individuals of this rare migrant seen back in the early spring, but things then went quiet for a while. The last few days have however clearly seen a further small influx (in addition to your sighting, a male was reported from north Yorkshire a few days ago). It's interesting how the most recent arrivals of this primarily Afro-tropical species have been at a time of relatively nondescript weather.
Thanks again for everything, and all best wishes. Have a good summer.
A.J. Parr
(British Dragonfly Society Migrant Dragonfly Project & Suffolk Dragonfly Recorder)

PPS: The Vagrant Emperor reported today on Birdguides.

Insect News: Suffolk, a female Vagrant Emperor dragonfly at Minsmere RSPB yesterday

Dipping the Roseate Tern at Minsmere

Arriving at Minsmere early this morning, we made our way to the Public Hide and began scanning the South Scrape for any sign of yesterday's Roseate Tern. Unfortunately, after several scans of the whole scrape, there was no sign of the bird's presence. There was, however, plenty of other birds around. Little Gulls were resting up on the scrape, The highest total I managed was 22. A single Little Tern was also found among the Little Gulls. Common Terns were numerous and busily flying back and forth between the scrape and sea feeding youngsters. Med Gulls seem to have had a good breeding year here as well, with several pairs feeding young. 3 Kittiwake were resting on the scrape along with large numbers of Sandwich Terns.
Several waders were noted including Common and Green Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank and Avocet.

Swallows were present around the sluice allowing for a few photos.

Although we dipped the Roseate Tern (Thankfully this does not happen very often to us) we still had a very enjoyable day. With the added bonus of finding a Vagrant Emperor Dragonfly, Even though we didn't know it at the time!

Thursday 13 July 2017

Marsh Sandpiper at Cliffe Pools, Kent

A Marsh Sandpiper had been reported at Cliffe Pools in Kent late on Wednesday evening, and with several positive reports today, we decided to make the trip.
Kent has recorded an impressive 22 records of Marsh Sandpiper (more than any other British County) but this is the first Kent record since August 2009 when a juvenile appeared at Bough Beech Reservoir and that individual stayed for just a single day.
Brian having taken his wife's 4x4 decided to drive the track down past the Black Barn towards the second viewing mound. The track is very uneven and deeply pot-holed in places but with care can be driven along. If not you can park in the Salt Lane car park and walk to the viewing mound. A walk of maybe 30-40 minutes.

The Marsh Sandpiper remained distant throughout our visit, preferring the back edge of Black Barn Pool 4. Viewing was made more difficult with the heat haze, but once the sun disappeared behind clouds the viewing improved allowing some nice scope views of the bird. It would feed along the back edge of the pool but favoured the far corner and would disappear out of view frequently. As well as the Marsh sandpiper the Black-winged Stilt adults and youngsters were showing superbly. A Barn Owl hunting the rough grassland in front of us was a nice ending to the evening.

Sunday 9 July 2017

Bonaparte's Gull, Oare Marshes NR

Saturday evening, a full moon, it seemed perfect for a visit to The Brecks searching for Nightjars!  We waited in our chosen spot and as the light faded and the moon appeared the first "churring" Nightjar was heard. As the churring stopped the first views of a wing-clapping and calling bird appeared close by. This was to be the pattern for the remainder of the evening. Several birds would start churring from nearby trees, then silence, soon to be followed by the presence close by of a calling bird in flight. Along with the Nightjars several Tawny Owls were also very vocal.

After a couple of hours sleep, it's another early morning outing. This time to Oare Marshes NR hoping to connect with the returning Bonaparte's Gull. we parked up along the road and scanned the East Flood for the Bonaparte's. 

View across East Flood from the road.

There's no sign and with the tide out on the Swale it's more likely to be feeding out on the mud until high tide. Before heading towards the slipway, we are distracted by the sound of a Turtle Dove "purring". It's soon found sitting on top of a telegraph pole. Another bird is also heard calling a short distance away.
After several scans for the Bonaparte's from the slipway, we are told by another birder that the bird is feeding on the mud further West and closer towards the hide. Another scan and the Bonaparte's is quickly found among the Black-headed Gulls. Below is the record shot I managed to grab by holding the phone to the scope.

Feeding out on the mud of The Swale

Luckily Brian had his camera ready when the bird took flight and headed for East Flood. Grabbing the image below as it crossed the sea wall.

Returning for it's fifth year at Oare Marshes and arriving back yesterday on exactly the same date as last year! The first sighting of presumably the same individual was back in June of 2013. 

Saturday 1 July 2017

Bee-eaters in East Leake Quarry, Notts

With a more favourable weather forecast today, we decided to head North and take a look at the Bee-eaters that had been present since the 25th June.
Heading along the A6006 we soon spotted the roadside sign directing us to the temporary car park set up in a field close to the site. (£5 per car of which half goes to the RSPB and half to the local farmer.) Without the temporary car park, I would imagine this would be a very difficult area to park near. It's a busy road so take care when crossing it as cars seem very reluctant to slow down.

Hard to miss the car park!
Crossing the road from the car park we stopped at the first gate and got distant views of one of the Bee-eaters perched up in the large Ash tree. Walking on we went through the second gate and around the first pit and joined the growing number of birders/photographers already present. I would say there was an 80% - 20% ratio in favour of cameras to scopes. 

Just some of the many birders/photographers present

The Bee-eaters were very active and constantly flying from the Ash tree to catch various insects. Bees, dragonflies and moths were all taken, with an almost 100% success rate. During our four hour visit, I managed to see six of the reported seven birds. 

Below is a very brief thirty-second video of one of the Bee-eaters.

This was a well-organised event with a real mix of people present, from birders to photographers to curious locals. I shared my scope with a couple of locals who had seen the Bee-eater sign the previous evening and come down to see them. It was also great to see so many youngsters present during the morning.