Monday 29 October 2018

Stejneger's Stonechat at Salthouse?

North-Easterly winds were forecast along the Norfolk coast today and we were parked up at Cley beach for a Seawatch by 7.30am. Missing a White-billed Diver before we arrived wasn't the best of starts, but a two-hour session produced a Pom Skua and Glauc Gull flying close along the beach right in front of us, a few Little Auks, two Velvet Scoter among large rafts of Common Scoter fifty-plus Eider and single Great Skua, Long-tailed Duck and Arctic Tern.

A short drive from Cley beach is Salthouse and after parking up alongside the duck pond we walked along Meadow Lane and connected with the probable Stejneger's Stonechat immediately. Having heard that a sample of the bird's droppings had been collected, We are now hoping the subsequent DNA tests will confirm it as a genuine Stejneger's.

ps: The DNA sample did indeed confirm that it was a Stejneger's Stonechat.

Confirmation on twitter on 17th November
Genetic analysis of Salthouse 'Eastern' Stonechat poo confirms it was stejnegeri, as suspected.

Stejneger's Stonechat?

We finished the trip at Brancaster Staithe with a bite to eat while watching several species of wader feeding among the exposed mud. Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey and Ringed Plovers, Curlew and Redshank among them.

Black-tailed Godwit


Wednesday 24 October 2018

Sparrowhawk re-visits the garden

The female Sparrowhawk made another appearance this afternoon. The last time I saw her was over nine months ago. Unfortunately, this time she was successful. By the time I spotted her she had already made the kill. She kills to survive so I didn't disturb her and took the pictures below through the window.

Sunday 21 October 2018

Grey Catbird,: Trevescan, Cornwall

A 2am phone call from Brian this morning saying he was going for the Catbird wasn't such a shock, more surprising was that I was ready and meeting him within twenty minutes!
After putting the location into the satnav it's just the 320 miles between us and the bird! Thick Fog and M3 closures hindered our progress.  But we still Arrived at Land's End by 8am and managed to find the field being used as a car park without any problems. The car park was already full and the field was covered in mist. However, the sun was rising, and the mist soon cleared.

We joined the birders at the bottom of the field and realised that there were just as many birders viewing the area from the opposite side of the stone wall. we had received mixed news. The bird had been seen this morning but had disappeared since. An hour had passed when we got our first sighting of the bird. It was distant, but it was sitting up in scrub allowing adequate scope views. 

Relieved we had seen the bird, now we waited and hoped for a better view. An hour later we got just that. It flew to the line of brambles on our side of the wall, and soon headed for the small Willow. The bird was filling the scope, but it moved even closer and soon it was perched in scrub above the wall within 10 feet of us! 

We left and made a quick stop at Broadsands hoping to add Cirl bunting to the year list. These proved difficult to find, but eventually, we had views of two birds in the hedgerows bordering the two fields.

Thursday 18 October 2018

Rustic Bunting: Wanstead Flats

Somehow I had managed to completely miss last evenings report of Rustic Bunting at Wanstead! So when I checked the news services this morning around 8.30am panic set in!

A mad dash around the house followed, and we were soon on route to Wanstead. The tail-end of the rush hour traffic and the locked car park on Centre Road delayed us further. Eventually, we had to park along Capel Road and walk across the playing fields and through East Copse. But as we emerged from East Copse the mood lifted. Standing along the edge of the football pitches was a group of 20-30 birders all looking intently towards the ploughed and burnt out field close to Long Wood. 

The Bunting was still present but was currently hidden among the clods of mud. Fortunately, it soon appeared giving superb views. It was feeding in close proximity to 4-5 Pied Wagtails. It remained in this area for over an hour, before taking flight towards the long grass.

It was over an hour before it was re-found. It flew overhead calling before dropping down close to its original location in the burnt-out area. Soon it took flight again and this time flew high over the distant copse before being seen to drop down again. We decided this was the time to head for home.

Birders were saying this was the third London record, but I could only find one other accepted record for London. A female that stayed at Beddington sewage-farm from 9th February-13th March in 1993. 

Monday 15 October 2018

Minsmere: A quiet but enjoyable morning

We arrived at Minsmere shortly before first light and headed East along the North wall towards the beach. Stopping on route to check the bushes either side of the footpath. Brambling, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, and Wren were all we could find.
There was not a breath of wind on the walk out to the beach and plenty of Bearded Tits could be heard from within the reedbeds but surprisingly there were few sightings. Red Deer were seen drinking in the channel along with two Water Rails. The walk along the shoreline added small flocks of Linnets and Meadow Pipits and the gorse bushes held several Stonechats. The only wader seen of any note was a Spotted Redshank. As we approached the sluice two Dartford Warblers were observed, the first time I had seen this species on the reserve! 

The view from the beach at first light

A scan from South Hide failed to locate the Ferruginous Duck on South Girder Pool. We were told by one of the wardens that it spends long periods sleeping among the reeds, and unfortunately, we didn't have the time to wait for the duck to emerge. Before leaving Minsmere we heard a Yellow-browed Warbler calling several times in and around the work centre, but failed to see it.

Monday 8 October 2018

Spotted Crake, Wilstone reservoir

A brief early morning visit to Wilstone Reservoir in Hertfordshire today hoping to connect with the Spotted Crakes that have been present since early September. We arrived at first light and headed up the steps and made our way towards Cemetery Corner. 

View of Wilstone reservoir at first light

Most of the sightings previously had been late afternoon, early evenings but we had only been scanning the reedbeds for 10-15 minutes when one of the Spotted Crakes was found. It was feeding at the front of the 2nd stand of reeds to the right of Cemetery Corner. Previous reports had me thinking it was only showing for brief periods before disappearing back into the reeds, but this individual continued to feed along the front of the reeds for long periods. I also had a possible sighting of a second bird but could not get another view to confirm it.

Spotted Crake

Friday 5 October 2018

Grey phalarope, Bough Beech Reservoir

Bough Beech Reservoir in Kent has been host to a Grey Phalarope since the 22nd of September. Since it's arrival it has spent its time on North Lake. Seemingly reliable, we made the forty mile trip this morning. Arriving shortly after 7am we found the reservoir and lake covered in a heavy blanket of fog. Eventually, the sun appeared and the fog cleared. However, there was no sign of the Phalarope! I was just about to cross the road and scan the reservoir when a local birder arrived and said: "have you checked the small pool"? I hadn't, but as soon as I did the Phalarope was seen! It was quite distant and the fog hadn't quite cleared, but I took a couple of record shots. It was feeding on its own in a typical Phalarope manner until several gulls flew in and eventually the Phalarope relocated to North Lake. The small pool also had a Green Sandpiper and two Common Snipe.

Grey Phalarope through the fog

Grey Phalarope (After the fog had cleared)

View of North Lake from the causeway

A scan of North Lake quickly relocated the Phalarope, It would spend much of its time under over-hanging branches of waterside trees, occasionally emerging briefly only to return to cover. A scan of the Lake added another two Green Sandpipers, two Grey Wagtails, and another Common Snipe. Much more of a surprise was a day calling Tawny Owl!

We left the site and had a brief walk around Sevenoaks Nature reserve. It was pretty quiet but a Grey Heron dropped in allowing for a few photos.

Sunday 30 September 2018

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Scotney GP

Another trip this morning to Dungeness hoping to finally see a Buff-breasted Sandpiper. It's a bird I've not managed to see,  having dipped four individuals on each of the four occasions previously.
This Buff-breasted Sandpiper was first reported at Scotney GP on the 25th but had been very elusive and seemed to go missing for long periods.
We started the morning with a drive along galloways, however, this was cut short when the MOD red flags were raised. Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting were seen before leaving.

We had a quick drive along the entrance track of the reserve and managed to see six Cattle Egret still at roost in the field near Boulderwall Farm. At Arc Pit, a Bittern flew in and landed among the reeds right in front of the hide. It then emerged from the reeds giving stunning views.

The only news of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper all morning had been negative! On the 1km walk along the track, we met several returning birders but none of them had seen the bird despite lengthy searches. Reaching the double metal gates we began scanning the fields. We had been told it favoured an area in front of the green and white generator and this is where we began the search. After several scans across the fields, Brian picked up movement in the short grass close to the water's edge. It was the Buff-breasted Sandpiper! Too far for a photo, but I was quite content with the scope views I was enjoying. After putting the news out we headed for home, dropping in at Elmley on route, where we found another six Cattle Egrets along the entrance track.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Beluga Whale, River Thames

When I checked Birdguides on Tuesday, I was greeted with the message below!

Beluga Whales belong to the same family as Narwhal and are sometimes called "Melonheads" because of the shape of their heads. The bulbous structure of the whale's forehead is called a melon and is believed to aid them in echolocation. They are also called "sea canary" this comes from the whale's rich and varied vocal range. They would normally be found in the Arctic and subarctic waters. The distinctive white colour of the adults helps them blend into their arctic surroundings and acts as a camouflage to protect them from Polar Bears and Killer Whales. Unlike other whale's they have no dorsal fin, this is thought to help prevent heat loss in the Arctic waters.

The whale was still being reported this morning, so we decided to head for Gravesend and hope to get a sighting of it. We parked close to the Ship and Lobster pub along Mark Lane and headed East along Saxon Shore Way. After a walk of around 1.5 miles, we reached the three barges where the whale had been seen most reliably. After a wait of around thirty minutes, the whale was spotted close to the third barge. We watched it for over an hour, and it followed the same pattern throughout our stay. It surfaced to breathe 4 times then the tail flicked up and that was the moment it dived. It would surface again five minutes later, and it was so reliable you could set your watch by it.

Monday 24 September 2018

Pectoral Sandpiper, Rainham Marshes

A Pectoral Sandpiper dropped in at Rainham Marshes yesterday, but the first reports this morning were all negative. Late morning the bird had been relocated on Tringa Pool the same pool as the previous day. With this news, we made the relatively short trip. Although I have been going to Rainham for many years I had never heard of Tringa Pool. So a brief stop at the reserve centre was needed to get directions. 

Tringa pool is not present on the Rainham Marshes map, but it is between Aveley Pools and Butts Scrape along the Northern boardwalk.

As soon as we reached the pool the Pec Sandpiper was showing superbly! I was expecting it to be quite distant, but it was showing much closer than expected. After 15-20 minutes it walked out of view but reappeared shortly afterward along the front edge of the reeds. 

Pectoral Sandpiper

A Ruff was also seen feeding in the same areas as the Pec Sandpiper several times. Wagtails were present in good numbers with three Yellow and double figures of Pied and White Wagtails.

Sunday 23 September 2018

Pallid Harrier: Therfield, Herts

The forecast for this morning was rain, rain, and heavy rain! Not exactly the weather you need when your searching for a Pallid Harrier. The weather was set to improve in the afternoon so with that in mind we decided to wait and make the trip shortly after lunchtime. After taking the footpath at the end of Mill Lane we joined a small group of birders. The bird had been seen briefly before our arrival but had not been seen for 20-30 minutes since. Thirty minutes had passed when I picked the bird up flying just above the hedge line in the second field. It didn't stay in the air long and several people present didn't manage to see it. Another hour went by before the Harrier appeared again, this time it was more distant but showed well for all present. During our 3 hour visit, it showed several times allowing superb scope views.

Map of where we parked, where we viewed from and the area the bird was seen hunting.

Several Red Kites were also showing well, with one flying directly in front of the car as we left the area. Red-legged partridge were present in good numbers along the hedges bordering the fields and a small herd of Fallow deer were also seen.

Sunday 9 September 2018

Wryneck, Landguard

Having failed on two occasions to connect with the Wryneck at Dungeness in the past couple of weeks, we decided to head for Landguard NR this morning hoping for better luck with one or both of the Wrynecks reported the previous day. Arriving shortly after first light, we managed to locate one of the Wrynecks after a brief search. One of the birds had been reported with leg rings, but this individual had no rings on either leg. The small group of birders watched the bird feeding in front of a bramble bush before it took flight and headed back towards the compound fence. It seemed to fly and feed in a triangle circuit for much of the morning but would also disappear for periods of time before being refound.

Wryneck (B Anderson)

Several walks along the length of the compound fenceline and surrounding areas failed to locate any Pied Flycatchers, but we did manage to find several Whinchats, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Wheatear, and single Black Redstart, Redstart, and Willow warbler along with the numerous Linnets.

Saturday 1 September 2018

Dungeness, Migrants soon to depart.

Another visit to Dungeness this morning, Arriving around 7am we drove along Galloways and found hundreds of Hirundines gathering around the sheep fields and on the telegraph wires. Mainly Sand Martins with a few Swallows and House Martins among them. Whinchats, Wheatears, and Stonechats were present in good numbers and several Common Whitethroats and a stunning looking Lesser Whitethroat were also seen.



A search of the Lighthouse gardens and surrounding areas produced several more Wheatears and a Sparrowhawk which flew low across the grass between us and dropped into the garden. 
Eight Cattle Egrets were reported in the fields close to Boulderwall Farm yesterday, today only a single bird was seen. Although quite distant it did show well among the cattle.

Cattle Egret

Another drive along Galloways and Dengemarsh Gully produced sightings of a pair of Raven and a single Spotted Flycatcher. We ended the trip with a long walk around the Long Pits area but failed to turn up anything of note other than a Grass Snake which Brian spotted swimming across the pit.

Grass Snake (B Anderson)

Before heading for home, we stopped off at Wanstead Flats for another hour session with the Red-backed Shrike. This time it was showing well upon arrival but was constantly on the move looking for prey. Crickets and Bees seemed to be the main targets. A Hobby flying directly above our heads was a nice bonus to end the day.

Red-backed Shrike