Tuesday 30 April 2019

Purple Heron: Burnham Overy, Norfolk

This morning didn't exactly go to plan. We started the day at Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire, where we were hoping to find the Baikal Teal from the previous day. However, after a three-hour search, there was no sign of the bird. On a couple of occasions, a Marsh Harrier flew overhead flushing everything on the wetlands, but the Baikal Teal was not among them. Two Garganey were seen from Stockdale Hide along with double figures of Greenshank and a single Ruff. A Barn Owl was seen hunting along the edge of the Old Bedford River directly behind the hide and a Black-winged Stilt was seen from Cadbury Hide.

Heavy Mist early morning

Leaving Cambridge we decided to head North and try to locate the Purple Heron at Burnham Overy. Upon arrival, we were told the heron had flown West and had not been seen for a couple of hours. Eventually, it was found feeding close to a ditch in the second field West of the main track. 

The photo above was taken from the main track and the Purple Heron could be seen from here, through the gap in the hedge line on the far left of the picture. Better views could be had from the sea wall.

Purple Heron

The bushes bordering the main track from the A149 produced several Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warblers, and Chiffchaff as well as a Lesser Whitethroat which Brian needed for his year list. A Chinese Water Deer and two Whimbrel were also seen while searching for the heron.

Sunday 28 April 2019

Red-footed Falcon: Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk

On route to Rendlesham Forest this morning we dropped in at Minsmere. Taking the short path from Sheepwash Lane to Island Mere we could already hear the Savi's Warbler "reeling" as we headed along the boardwalk to the hide. Soon after entering the hide the Savi's was located. It was in a small bush on the far side of the lake. We stayed at Island Mere for around an hour and it proved very productive. The Savi's was the main target but we were also fortunate enough to see two Otters two Bitterns and a pair of displaying Marsh Harriers.

The footpath along the Western side of the main reserve also proved worthwhile. As we headed towards the first hide a Grasshopper Warbler began "reeling" but although it seemed to be directly in front of us and only feet away it took us ninety minutes to finally get views of the bird. 

By this time the Red-footed Falcon had been reported as still present at Rendlesham. The unnamed road bordering the Eastern end of the Airfield was lined with cars. The homeowner of the single house at the edge of the airfield was welcoming birders into his garden to view the bird at closer range through the fence. The bird was using the landing light platforms to hunt from and would fly out to catch its prey and then return to the platforms to dispatch it. 

Red-footed Falcon

Thursday 25 April 2019

Marsh Sandpiper, Vange Marsh

On the 13th July 2017, I added Marsh Sandpiper to my life list when a juvenile was found at Cliffe pools in Kent. That individual although allowing good scope views always remained distant. So when another Marsh Sandpiper was found today only 25 miles from home at Vange Marsh it didn't take long before we were on the road and heading towards Basildon. We arrived around 2.30pm and joined the small group of birders already present. Viewing from the small ramp a Wood Sandpiper was found feeding along a small strip of exposed mud. 

Wood Sandpiper

The small group of birders had the Marsh Sandpiper in their scopes and quickly got us onto the bird. It was distant but showing well in the scope. The Sandpiper was feeding in the North Western corner so we decided to head around to the Western edge. This proved a good move as the Marsh Sandpiper was much closer now and with the scope the views were superb. 

Marsh Sandpiper & Greenshank

Bearded Tits were "pinging" from nearby reedbeds close by as were Reed Warblers. Another scan of the marsh produced at least fifteen Greenshank, four Dunlin, and a very smart looking summer plumaged Spotted Redshank.

Vange is proving a rewarding site again this year having already produced two Black-winged Stilts on the 13th of this month.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Ortolan Bunting: Billet's Farm, Abberton

An Ortolan Bunting was found at Billet's Farm Abberton Monday afternoon. With no possibility of being able to make the trip yesterday, it was an anxious wait hoping it had stayed overnight. We left at 5.30am and arrived at Billet's Farm car park shortly before 6.45am, having enjoyed a trouble-free journey along the A12. Three local birders were already present and thankfully they all had their scopes trained on the Ortolan Bunting. It was overcast and quite dull, so I had to make do with the handheld phone/scope photos below. 

Ortolan Bunting

Also present on the same barn roof was the Channel Wagtail below. It fed among the roof guttering in the company of several Yellow Wagtails before flying off North and was lost to view. 

Channel Wagtail

A brief stop just South of the farm produced several Greenshank in Wigborough Bay another addition to the year list.

The final stop of the day was to the Essex Wildlife Trust's Abbotts Hall Farm. It was rather quiet but still added another year list addition in the form of a calling Cuckoo. We followed the pathway to the Wetlands Hide overlooking the estuary. Birds seen along this section included Redshank, Buzzard, Common, and Lesser Whitethroats and Yellowhammer.

Pool by the Wetlands Hide

Rapeseed field

Monday 15 April 2019

Ring Ouzel: Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve

Two male Ring Ouzels have been present in the horse paddocks by the entrance track of Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve since Friday the 12th. This morning we made the forty-mile trip hoping they hadn't finally decided to move North overnight. One birder was already present as we pulled up along the entrance track shortly before 7am but he had not seen the Ring Ouzels. However after several scans of the paddocks, one of the Ring Ouzels appeared along the fence line. Soon it was joined by the second bird. 

 The reserve itself was very quiet, but it was an enjoyable walk along the various tracks.

View of East Lake

Bough Beech is only six miles away, but water levels were very high and very few birds were present.

View from the causeway opposite the reservoir

Saturday 13 April 2019

Black-winged Stilts, Vange Marsh

News of two Black-winged Stilts returning to Vange marsh yesterday saw us make a brief visit this morning. Parking at Chestnut Road allows access to the marsh via an underpass of the A13. It's then a walk of roughly 600m. Upon arrival, there are already four hardy souls scanning the marsh from the small viewing ramp. Thankfully the Stilts are still present and seen immediately.

Black-winged Stilts

View from the viewing ramp

It's bitterly cold this morning and feels much more like Winter than Spring! A scan of the area before heading for home produces Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Avocet, Snipe, and double-figures of Black-tailed Godwits. 

Monday 8 April 2019

American Wigeon, Rutland Water

The main target today was the long staying American Wigeon. Upon arrival, we headed for Dunlin Hide which overlooks Lagoon IV. From the car park, it's a walk of about three-quarters of a mile. Good numbers of Wigeon were present but most were on the grass banks bordering the lagoon and at some distance from our location. After almost 2 hours of scanning, the American Wigeon appeared. Tucked in with a flock of its European cousins. Eventually, it drifted closer.

During the search for the Wigeon, I managed to add another year tick in the form of two Little Ringed Plovers which were found on the edge of one of the small islands.

American Wigeon

Rutland Water is famous for Ospreys and this year twenty-one individuals had been reported as present. A single male bird had taken up residence on the nesting platform on Lagoon IV. We watched it make several flights back and forth collecting sticks to add to the nest, hoping to entice a female to join him.

Saturday 6 April 2019

Crane at Dungeness

Another visit to Dungeness this morning started with a drive along the entrance track of the reserve searching for the juvenile Crane that had been present since the 1st April. Unfortunately, after several scans, there was no sign of the bird. We did, however, hear our first Sedge Warblers of the year. 

A sea-watch from the first hide was next on the agenda, with a North North East wind movement was slow. Common Scoter were still moving through in good numbers with the odd Teal and Shoveler found among them. A single Whimbrel heading East was a nice find as were two Common Tern that Brian had picked out at long range before they eventually approached "the patch" and then headed East passed the Buoy. A distant Arctic Skua was the only other addition to the year list. Gannets were present in good numbers as were Sandwich Terns with double figures of the latter resting on the buoy.  

View from sea-watching hide

A drive along Dengemarsh Road was rewarding when we found the Crane feeding among a herd of Mute Swans opposite the Lydd cart circuit entrance. It remained distant but allowed good scope views.

Common Crane, Handheld phone/scoped

On the way home, we dropped in at Wanstead as Brian still needed Little Owl for the year, having seen them a few days earlier it didn't take long to find one for him. Brian then repaid us by finding the Common Redstart in the scrub on Alexandra Lake.

Year List total: 193

Wednesday 3 April 2019

Little Owls: Wanstead Flats

Little owls have proven somewhat difficult to locate on our travels this year. Although we haven't gone out of our way, we have looked at some known sites while in those areas.
Knowing that Little owls have been reported regularly at Wanstead, We decided to go looking for them today. Heading towards one of the small copses we bump into NC and get some welcome local knowledge. Scanning the first area it's not long before the first Little owl is spotted. Another scan of a different copse provides another sighting of another bird.

The weather was quite changeable, with frequent rain showers followed by brief periods of sunshine.

We tried and failed to locate the Redstart Nick had found the previous day around Alexandra scrub, but we were more than happy watching the Little owls.