Friday, 26 January 2018

Coues's Arctic redpoll, Hazelwood Common

A trip to Suffolk this morning started with a visit to Hazelwood Common. Arriving at first light we were the only birders present. There had been no reports of the Arctic Redpolls presence for two days and we were hoping this was due to the awful weather conditions of the previous two days rather than the bird's disappearance. My optimism waned a little when I stepped out of the car to find the fields opposite the sailor's path had recently been ploughed. However, as I reached the bend on the path a small flock of Redpolls flew up from the field and perched in the hedges bordering the path. Almost immediately the Coues's was found among them! We watched the flock of 20-30 Redpolls for a couple of hours, picking out all three Redpolls Lesser, Mealy and Arctic among them. The Coues's regularly perched up in the hedges giving some nice views of the almost unstreaked white rump.

Coues's Arctic Redpoll

Mealy Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll

A walk towards Hazelwood Marshes located another flock of Redpolls with one maybe 2 more Mealy Redpolls among them. 

The hide overlooking Hazelwood marshes

A Glossy Ibis had been seen feeding in a flooded field at Eastbridge earlier in the morning. First seen on the 17th on Minsmere's West scrape, it had now relocated to this field and we had spotted it before we had even parked the car. After initially showing at close range it flew to the back of the field and remained distant throughout the rest of our brief visit. 

With limited time we made our way to Dunwich Heath searching for Dartford Warblers. Two were found after a short walk along the paths among the heather.

Dartford warbler

On route to Dunwich, we searched the fields along the whole length of Lymballs lane but failed to find the reported nine Bewick's Swans. 
A quick walk around Minsmere added another couple of year ticks with a Marsh Tit coming to feeders at the reserve centre and several Bearded Tits "pinging" from the reedbeds in front of the Bittern Hide.

Before leaving for home we drove along Lymballs lane once more in search of the Bewick's Swans and found them in a field opposite Charity farm.

Bewick's Swans

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Little Bunting, Walthamstow Wetlands: Three Ticks in one!

The weather predictions for today were not good, with heavy rain and snow showers forecast. however, an early morning visit to Walthamstow Reservoirs/Wetlands was within easy reach and the presence of a Little Bunting was more than enough encouragement to make the trip.
Pulling into the reservoir car park around 8am, we were told the new site doesn't open until 9.30! Luckily we had our Thames Water permit allowing us access.
We began the search from the raised banks of East Warwick reservoir, where the presence of a male Sparrowhawk perched in a Willow tree above the favoured feeding area proved a bit of a double-edged sword, needed for a year tick, it was, however, stopping the buntings from feeding. Luckily after 10-15 minutes, it left and the buntings became more active. After an hours searching and scanning Brian spotted a likely candidate fly in. After relocating to a lower area the bird was found perched in the scrub that borders Coppermill Stream. One bird providing me with three ticks, Year, London and Essex!

Little Bunting

After everyone had grabbed a look through the scopes, we made a quick dash around to Reservoir 4 and quickly located the male Scaup before heading for home.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Productive visit to Capel Fleet/Shellness NNR

Arriving at Capel Fleet at first light we were treated to the sight of a Barn Owl hunting the hedge line along Harty Ferry Road. From the viewpoint, we enjoyed views of several Common Buzzard and Marsh Harrier and a single Hen Harrier that disappeared as quickly as it appeared. The Hooded Crow flew across the dump area to feed on the remains of a recently deceased swan but didn't linger very long at the carcass and flew back across the dump heading towards The Swale.

Hood Crow

On the drive back along Harty Ferry Road, there was a large flock of Linnet on the telegraph wires and they would frequently drop down onto the road. Corn Buntings were also present in good numbers in the usual bramble bushes. A Kestrel came into feed on the swan carcass allowing for a few photos. 

Scanning the fleet from a raised area proved fruitful when firstly the three Whooper Swans were found among the Mute Swans and then several White-fronted Geese were located among the Greylag and Barnacle Geese.

The shoreline at Shellness was alive with waders, with Redshank, Turnstone, Sanderling, Dunlin, Knot and Grey Plover all seen. We then turned our attention to the two flocks of birds feeding in the fields opposite. Large numbers of Skylark were present with small numbers of Snow Bunting which proved easier to pick out in flight than on the ground. Among these flocks, Brian eventually managed to pick out a single Lapland Bunting.

Oare Marshes proved the only disappointment of the day. Despite the pager announcing the presence of the Long-billed Dowitcher on the creek while we were standing on the seawall scanning the creek, we failed to find the bird. There were several birders scanning the creek around us and none had seen or reported the bird! Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew, Grey Plover and Avocet were seen on the creek. Pintail, Teal, Lapwing and Golden plover were all present on East Flood and a single Kingfisher was seen flying across the reeds heading towards the sluice.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

All targets achieved at Abberton & Abbott's Hall Farm

A trip to Abberton this morning started at Layer Breton causeway at first light. As I stepped out of the car I could already see the first target bird. A redhead Smew, then another and another, in total there were six redheads and one stunning male. A pair of Goldeneye were also seen from here, but the male Smew stole the show.

Male Smew

Female Smew

Moving on to Layer de la Haye causeway, we climbed the steps and found the 2nd target a European Shag roosting on the far bank alongside a female Goosander and several Cormorants. Twenty minutes later it took to the water and headed for the sluice.

From here it was just three-miles to Abbott's Hall Farm. Instead of heading for the saltmarsh, we took the left-hand path and made our way to Lake hide. A drake Ring-necked Duck has been present in the area since early November, spending its time between Abberton and Abbott's Hall Farm. Today it was sleeping out on the pool in front of the hide. Waking very briefly before returning to its slumber. I grabbed a shot with the phone held to the scope and we moved on to the saltmarsh in search of the previous days reported Glossy Ibis.

Sleeping Ring-necked Duck

Expectations were not high of finding the Glossy Ibis, given the large expanse of saltmarsh in front of us, but as luck would have it, within minutes the Ibis was seen in flight heading towards us! Just at that moment, a paraglider appeared above the trees and promptly put everything on the saltmarsh up. Two birders joined us soon afterwards and told us that the guy had also flushed the Ring-necked Duck off the pool as well. The Ibis was seen again in flight later in the day but the Ring-necked Duck was not reported again all day.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Slavonian Grebe: King George V Reservoir

A short visit to the King George V Reservoir in Chingford this morning. Arriving at first light to find the water surface much calmer than expected. Hopefully making my two targets this morning, Slavonian Grebe and Scaup easier to locate. 
I started with a slow walk along the Eastern edge heading towards the sailing club hut. Stopping and scanning any likely looking candidates on route. While scanning the South Western edges the Slavonian Grebe was found. Occasionally being harassed by a Great Crested Grebe. 
The South basin held an impressive number of Goldeneye, Scanning just from the Eastern edge I counted 26. A single Goosander was found at the North Western edge and shortly afterwards the Scaup popped up among a group of Tufted Ducks.

After returning to the ramp I  scanned again for the Slav Grebe and was surprised to find two Slavonian Grebes swimming together.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Dungeness delivers the birds once again!

Before heading off to Dungeness this morning we made a brief stop at Oare Marshes. The tide was out, therefore, it was pretty quiet on East flood. Teal and Lapwing were most numerous with smaller numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler and Pintail. There was no sign of the Long-billed Dowitcher either on East flood or the surrounding mudflats. Before leaving I did manage to add two new additions to the year list, with a Green Woodpecker perched on a telegraph pole and a Kingfisher at the sluice gates.

After a brief stop at the entrance gate to Dungeness RSPB reserve to pick out several Tree Sparrows on the feeders it was off to the reserve centre. An Iceland Gull was showing well among a small gull roost on one of the islands. This was an unexpected bonus, We'd hoped that the Long-eared Owl would be visible this morning and it didn't disappoint, showing extremely well in the bushes behind the dipping pond.

Long-eared owl

We left the reserve after being told of the presence of a Black-throated Diver on ARC Pit. After several scans, the diver was found along the Eastern edge. It remained distant throughout our visit and a  scope was essential to get any decent views. A Great White Egret flew in and provided another welcome year tick.

From here we headed for the beach and quickly located the 1st winter Caspian Gull among a small group of roosting gulls by the fishing boats.

Caspian Gull

A juvenile Glaucous Gull had been reported the previous day and with no sign of its presence at the fishing boats, we headed for "the patch" and were told by another birder that it had been seen but it had disappeared into the power station compound and not seen since. The fact that there were hardly any gulls roosting on the beach was probably due to the extensive work taking place on the shingle banks trying to save the 2nd seawatching hide from disappearing below the bank. The recent storms and high tides had left the hide on the very edge. The Glaucous Gull was showing no signs of emerging from the compound, then as luck would have it, two workers came around the corner and this was enough for the Glaucous Gull to take flight. The walk back along the shingle was halted when a Kittiwake was found roosting on the beach. It didn't hang around long as the incoming tide reached it and it took to the air.

A stop off at Capel Fleet before heading for home added another two year ticks, with a small covey of Red-legged partridge and a small flock of Corn Buntings. An hour or so scanning from the viewing mound produced plenty of good birds including Three Hen Harriers (1 male and 2 Ringtails) several Marsh harriers, Peregrine, Barn Owl and Merlin.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Parrot Crossbills Broxbourne Woods NNR

Broxbourne Woods NNR

The morning started with a trip to Broxbourne Woods hoping to connect with the three Parrot Crossbills that were first reported on the 18th December. Although they have not been reported every day since that first sighting I was hopeful they would show this morning having been seen for much of the previous day.
Arriving around 9.30am I followed the track to the crossroads and found the three Crossbills feeding in the Pine trees adjacent to the metal gate immediately. Below is a record shot of the female taken with my phone handheld to the scope.

Parrot Crossbill


Moving on to Bramfield we parked up outside the church and headed towards the back of the churchyard and scanned the Yew and Ash trees inside and adjoining the church grounds. At first, there was no sign but a very vocal Nuthatch kept us entertained. Suddenly five Hawfinch flew behind the church and two landed in the Ash tree. An added bonus here was a single Brambling that at one point was sitting alongside one of the Hawfinch.


Lemsford Springs

The final trip of the morning was to Lemsford Springs. A small nature reserve featuring old Watercress beds which hold abundant numbers of shrimp which in turn attract Green Sandpipers. As soon as we entered the first of the two hides we found three Green Sandpipers feeding on the shrimps directly in front of us within the freshwater lagoons. A Grey Wagtail appeared further along the channel for another welcome year tick and a Red Kite drifted directly overhead. 

Green Sandpiper

Red Kite

A view of the old Watercress lagoons at Lemsford Springs.

Monday, 1 January 2018

A new birding year starts in Norfok

The previous evening's debate was whether we began the new birding year in Norfolk or Kent? With the weather forecasters predicting much more favourable weather conditions for Norfolk, that is where we headed this morning. 
As we approached Fakenham in semi-darkness we were greeted by the sight of two Barn Owls hunting in the same field. This good start to the day would continue throughout the entire day's birding. First stop was at Holkham, where we found five of the reported eight Shorelarks after a brief search.

A flock of eleven Twite was added soon after arriving at Thornham and Snow Buntings numbering fifty plus in total were seen at Salthouse soon after leaving the car.

There had been no reports of the Cattle Egrets all morning but we found them in a flooded field on route to Stiffkey.

Titchwell sea-watch produced several good birds including Great Northern and Red-throated Diver, Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser and a single Little Gull.

A brief stop at Brancaster Staithe added several species including Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and Water rail.

Grey Plover

The day continued to produce good birds and as we passed through Holkham a male Merlin was spotted perched on a cattle feeder close to the roadside. 
With the light fading fast we ended the day at Stiffkey and was rewarded with views of a stunning male Hen Harrier as it drifted across the marsh heading towards its roost site.