Sunday 26 May 2019

Squacco Heron: Posbrook Floods, Titchfield

Another early morning start today enabled us to make good progress on the 115-mile journey to Titchfield. Positive news had already reached us as to the continued presence of the Squacco Heron before we had parked the car. As a consequence, many of the birders were returning to the car park as we walked along the canal path. Apparently, the heron had shown well for 30 seconds but had then disappeared back within the reeds. To maximize our coverage of the Floods, Brian walked around to the Eastern edge while I remained on the canal path. 
An hour had passed and Brian phoned to make sure I didn't have the bird in view. Just at that moment, the Squacco Heron took flight! Brian was in the right place and quickly replaced his phone with his camera.

Squacco Heron

Another hour had passed and there were no other sightings of the bird, so we left and made our way to Acre's Down. On the walk up to the watchpoint, Tree Pipit's were seen and heard giving me another addition to the year list. From the watchpoint, we had several Goshawks and Common Buzzards plus three Hobby's and a Red Kite. We had a very distant view of a possible Honey Buzzard but the views were not good enough to be confident and will not make the year list. 
The highlight of the two-hours came while we were watching a Common Buzzard and a Goshawk flew below it and landed in a tall Pine tree. It didn't stay in the tree for very long but most of the small group of birders managed views of it through my scope.

Monday 20 May 2019

Whiskered & Roseate Terns at Dungeness

It's late morning and a Whiskered Tern has just been found on Burrowes Pit at Dungeness. It's a lifer for all three of us. The only problem is dad has a hospital appointment. 

Three hours later we finally hit the road. It's another anxious 2 hours before we pull into the car park at Dungeness. I thought the hide would be full, but there was only one person present and they had not seen the Tern! Thankfully and with much relief it's soon spotted flying low across the water and then lands on a shingle island in front of the hide.

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

The hide quickly started to fill up as birders began arriving from work. Dad still needed the Serin for a year tick so we made the six-mile journey to Littlestone in search of it. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the bird, and the search was cut short when news of a Roseate Tern was reported on the same pit as the Whiskered Tern! I was just as anxious to see the Roseate Tern as I was to see the Whiskered Tern as it was another lifer for me. I'd dipped a few of these birds on several occasions, but thankfully it was resting on the shingle island when we entered the hide.

Roseate tern 

Roseate Tern

It soon took off and headed high towards the power station giving some nice flight views as it went. 

The anxious five-hour wait at home and on route had well and truly paid off today.

Saturday 18 May 2019

Serin & Great Reed Warbler

Littlestone-on-Sea in Kent was our first destination this morning. We were hoping to see the Serin that had first been reported on the 15th. We parked up alongside the Golf Club close to the junction of St Andrew's Road and Madeira Road and heard the Serin singing soon after stepping out of the car. It wasn't long before we were enjoying good views of the bird.


We moved on to Dungeness and plotted up outside the hide with some of the locals. A three-hour sea-watch didn't produce the Pomarine Skuas we were hoping for but we enjoyed views of Arctic Skua, Red-throated Diver, Fulmar, Common and Sandwich Terns, Mediterranean Gull and Whimbrel.

A Golden Oriole had been reported as singing from within Great Wood at Worth. We should have driven to Worth and walked from there but instead, we went to Sandwich Bay. The walk from Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory was around 4 miles there and back and although we got snippets of the flutey Oriole like song we failed to get any decent singing of the Oriole, certainly not enough to count it. We did, however, get good views of Turtle Dove feeding on the path along with Bullfinch, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Cetti's Warbler and Common and Lesser Whitethroat.

The Pied Crow had been reported at Foreness Point this morning and as we were only 12 miles away we decided to see if it was still present. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the bird on the beach or the surrounding areas despite the presence of numerous Carrion Crows.

We left for home but made a small diversion on route to Crossness, where after another lengthy walk we enjoyed good views of London's first record of Great Reed Warbler. 

Great Reed Warbler

Thursday 16 May 2019

Norfolk Spoonbills

We started the morning at Cley by visiting Daukes Hide and immediately connected with the five Temminck's Stints on Simmonds Scrape. Although the Stints were showing well in the scope they remained distant and out of range of the camera.

A Little Stint had been reported on Arnold's Marsh early morning so we left in search of it. A scan from Richardson's Outlook failed to locate the Stint but several Little Terns were resting on the small exposed islands. A walk along the beach and another scan again failed to find the Stint, however, there was a  small group of Dunlin and a single Sanderling present. As we drove back towards the visitor centre we noticed four Spoonbills heading towards us. They turned and appeared to drop down onto Watling Water. A quick walk out to Babcock Hide and we found the Spoonbills had indeed dropped in and one was relatively close.

On the way home, we stopped at the American Airbase at Lakenheath and watched the visiting F16 Fighting Falcons. The noise was just incredible as they passed overhead. The F16's are here for three weeks as part of the D-Day celebrations, they are normally based in Homestead Florida.

Sunday 12 May 2019

Gannets and Puffins at Bempton Cliffs

This morning we headed towards Yorkshire, the plan was to head North and hope for positive news on yesterdays Brown Shrike and or Collared Flycatcher on the route. When negative news on both birds finally came we were already well into Lincolnshire! So we decided to keep heading North and spend the day at Bempton Cliffs. 

Bempton Cliffs Visitor Centre

The cliff faces were alive with the sights and sounds of Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills,  Fulmars, and Gannets. 

Puffins were also present but in much smaller numbers and most were sitting on the sea below the cliffs. There was however the odd one or two perched on the cliff faces.

The reserve also held impressive numbers of Tree Sparrows, especially around the reserve centre. We also found several more along the clifftop paths.

Tree Sparrow

On the way home, we popped into Blacktoft Sands Reserve but failed to see the ringtail Montagu's Harrier while there. But watching the displaying Marsh Harriers and seeing a Bittern drop into the reeds in front of us made the visit worthwhile.  

We left it a day late to connect with the rarities but still had a very enjoyable day birding at a very special place.

Tuesday 7 May 2019

Great Spotted Cuckoo: Weybourne Camp, Norfolk

We left home at 7.15am this morning heading for Norfolk. This meant we encountered much heavier traffic than usual and didn't arrive until 10am. However, on the plus side, the continued presence of the five Dotterel at Choseley had already been reported on the news services. As a result, we started our day at the bottom of Chalkpit Lane and connected with the Dotterel immediately. Corn Bunting and Common Whitethroat were also seen here along with plenty of Hares.


Titchwell is less than two miles away and was our next destination. We walked the Fen Trail heading towards Patty's Pool and found a Turtle Dove feeding on the concrete track close to Fen Hide.

Turtle Dove

There was no sign of the reported Spoonbills on the Tidal Pool, but we did manage close views of a family party of Bearded Tits along with several Reed and Sedge Warblers. A single Little Ringed Plover was also seen from the footpath.

Dad needed the Great Spotted Cuckoo for a lifer, but there had been no news throughout the morning. and we knew it had been giving the local birders the run around all week. However, shortly after 1pm news came out of a reported sighting at Gramborough Hill. As we arrived on site birders told us they had only seen it in flight and that it had headed towards Weybourne. So we headed for Weybourne and walked along the beach and scanned the pines within the Muckleburgh area. There was no sign of the Cuckoo and returning birders reported it had flown back towards Salthouse. Back in the car, we decided to stop at Muckleburgh Hill and scan the pines from the opposite side. This proved to be a very good decision because as we approached the top we got the thumbs up from the birders present and enjoyed decent scope views of the Cuckoo in the trees. 

We left for home having had another very enjoyable and productive days birding, four-year ticks and dad has another lifer on his list.

Saturday 4 May 2019

Baikal Teal: March Farmers, Cambridgeshire

Having tried and failed to locate the Baikal Teal at Ouse Washes on Tuesday, we watched throughout the week as the news services regularly reported the Teal at March Farmers, some twenty miles North West of the Ouse Washes.
March Farmers is a site I have never visited before, but we found the car park off the A605 without any trouble. Leaving the car we walked along the raised bank, passing a birder who was on his way back. He told us he had seen the bird but it had disappeared among the vegetation in one the channels. There was a very strong Northerly wind blowing straight into our faces, making for a very bitterly cold search. After thirty minutes Brian spotted the head of the Baikal Teal among the grass. With a Cormorant as a reference point, we moved further along the raised bank and eventually obtained good scope views of the bird.

View from below the raised bank

Yesterday Brian and I took a trip to Abberton Reservoir where we had decent views of five White-winged Black Terns, but we also failed to locate the Bonaparte's Gull that had been reported. So we dropped in again today for another try. This time we got lucky as the Bonaparte's was resting among a  small group of Black-headed Gulls close to Island Hide. 

1st Summer Bonaparte's Gull

The White-winged Black Terns were still present and showing well as they flew around the reservoir.
Also, present today was a 1st Summer Little Gull, which occasionally dropped down to rest close to the Bonaparte's Gull.

4 of the 5 White-winged Black terns

Before leaving for home we stopped at Billet's Farm and found the Channel Wagtail in the garden of the farmhouse. 

Channel Wagtail