Tuesday 28 August 2018

Red-backed Shrike, Wanstead

Having tried and failed to see the Red-backed Shrike at Thursley Common on the way home from the New Forest in July, it was very welcome if somewhat unexpected news of another bird being found at Wanstead Flats this morning.
We were on site within 30 minutes of the news being posted and managed flight views of the bird as we walked along the track. Unfortunately, that was the only view I had during the next three hours!

So I made a second trip the following day hoping for better views. After an hour of searching, there was no sign of the bird. Then it suddenly appeared in a hawthorn bush! It was quite skittish at first but eventually settled down and gave some nice views to the assembled group.

Red-backed Shrike

There had also been reports of one possibly two Pied Flycatchers present in an area called the enclosure this morning. Crossing the football pitches we could hear a Little owl calling from within a small copse and just beyond we located three Whinchats. Wanstead had suffered several fires the previous months and the evidence was all around us. The areas that had been favoured by Wrynecks in previous years had been completely destroyed and the enclosure was also badly fire damaged. We scanned the trees bordering this area and managed to locate two Spotted Flycatchers and a single Lesser Whitethroat but there was no sign of any Pied Flycatchers present. 

Spotted Flycatcher

Saturday 25 August 2018

American Black Tern, Dungeness

An American Black Tern had been present at Dungeness throughout the week and this afternoon we decided to make the trip. The news services had reported the birds continued presence this morning so we were quietly optimistic during the journey.
Before heading for the reserve we made a brief stop at Galloways and although we failed to locate the Wryneck we did bag a year tick when several Whinchats were seen among the gorse and on the fence lines.
The American Black Tern had been frequenting Burrowes Pit all week in the company of several Black terns. We began the search from Makepiece Hide and quickly located several of the Black Terns, mostly juveniles but there was a single moulting adult bird among them. Soon afterwards the American Black Tern was spotted. It spent most of its time flying up and down the far corner of the pit but did occasionally use the tern raft to rest up for brief periods.
Although it was quite tricky staying on the bird with the scope, it did allow me to pick out some of the differences between to two species.  Dusky underwing and dusky smudge on the flanks being the most obvious

American Black Tern

Black Tern

Sunday 12 August 2018

Destination Dungeness

With favourable wind conditions and with forecasted rain showers during the morning we headed for the beach and joined one of the locals in the sea-watching hide. Unfortunately, the rain never arrived and the wind conditions didn't really produce the birds we had been hoping for. Good numbers of Gannets were constantly seen moving through, with much smaller numbers of Kittiwakes, Fulmars, and Scoters also seen. We did, however, manage to add a year tick in the form of a distant Arctic Skua.  Eventually, it flew much closer allowing some nice scope views when it started harassing the Common Terns.
With the recently prolonged spells of dry weather, I was quite surprised to find the water levels at Dengemarsh much higher than expected. However, there were a couple of small strips of exposed sandy islands and a scan of these produced Ruff, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Common Sandpiper and a second-year tick in the form of a Wood Sandpiper. Sand Martins were present in their hundreds, skimming low across the water surface and perching on nearby fence wires. 
A drive along Galloways Road added a few Wheatears and Stonechats and a young Whitethroat, but the birding was interrupted when we found a sheep wandering along the road and had to open one of the gates and encourage it to run through. Eventually, we managed to reunite the sheep with the rest of the flock without too much drama.

We stopped off at Elmley on the way home and were entertained by a family of Swallows.

The fields either side of the entrance track were very dry, but we did manage to find a single Green Sandpiper feeding along the edge of a pool that still held some water. The only other birds of note were a couple of Marsh Harriers and Yellow Wagtails.

Saturday 4 August 2018

Lesser Yellowlegs: Titchwell, Norfolk

We arrived at Titchwell at around 6am to find it completely devoid of people. The reserves birdlife, however, was thriving.
The reduced water levels on the Freshwater Marsh had attracted plenty of waders. However with the sun already up, viewing conditions were challenging, so we headed towards the beach. A brief scan produced good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, Turnstones, Oystercatchers, Sanderling and small numbers of Common Scoter.
Tidal Marsh held over forty Little Egrets, the highest numbers of Little Egrets I've ever seen in one location. With some cloud cover appearing, we made our way back to the Freshwater Marsh and quickly located the Lesser Yellowlegs out on the Tern Island. It was quite some distance from the hide, but Brian managed to grab the record shot below.

Along with the Lesser Yellowlegs, several other wader species were present including Black-tailed & Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Green & Common Sandpipers, Redshank & Spotted redshank, Dunlin Ruff, Avocet, Grey & Golden Plover and five Spoonbills.
Common Terns were present and a single Little Gull was found. Bearded Tits were "pinging" all around us and would regularly be seen dropping down onto the mud from the reed fringes.

Cley proved to be less productive. While scanning through the numerous Green Sandpipers trying and failing to turn one of them into a Wood Sandpiper a guy thought he had re-found the previous days Buff-breasted Sandpiper. This, unfortunately, turned out to be a Knot. Cley did, however, give us views of a stunning male Spotted Redshank. Whimbrel and Greenshank also added to the day's list total.