Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Iceland Gull, Beckton Sewage Treatment Works

News of an Iceland Gull at Beckton had us eager to visit the site. The only problem was we had never visited this area before. Fortunately, Shaun H kindly gave me some site directions. Armed with this information we arrived on site and made our way behind the cinema and headed off along the footpath, only to realise we had taken the bottom path and we should have taken the top one! 

Back on the right path, we passed the Becton Creekside Nature Reserve and picked out the Iceland Gull among the numerous Black-headed Gulls as soon as we reached the gates. We spent 3 hours on-site enjoying plenty of flight views of the Iceland Gull.

Iceland Gull

Black-headed Gulls

Monday, 27 January 2020

Turtle Dove: Valentine's Park, Ilford

We only had a few hours of birding available today, so we decided to visit Valentine's Park in Ilford and hopefully connect with the overwintering Turtle Dove that had been found by the local RSPB group on Saturday. At this time of year, you would expect Turtle Doves to be spending the winter in sub-Saharan West Africa and not within the London recording area!

Valentine's Park lake and island

We arrived at the park shortly after 8am and made our way towards the lake. There were several Collared Doves perched in the trees bordering the lake but the Turtle Dove was not among them. As the light improved the Collared Doves took flight and disappeared over the trees and headed towards the surrounding houses. We spent the next two hours searching all of the surrounding areas without any sign of the bird. As we returned to the lake area after yet another search several Collared Doves were seen flying into the trees on the island. Another scan and the Turtle Dove was found perched on a branch overhanging the lake. It then flew to a dead tree at the front of the island.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Waxwing at Sculthorpe Moor, Norfolk

Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve had played host to a single Waxwing since Tuesday the 21st, and it was our main target today. We arrived shortly after the reserve had opened and connected with the Waxwing as soon as we entered the reserve. It was perched at the top of a large oak tree behind the visitor centre and would fly down to pluck a berry from the bushes and quickly return to the oak tree with its meal.

A leisurely stroll around the reserve produced double-figure numbers of Bullfinch from various feeding stations and our first Bramblings of the year was seen from Volunteer Hide.

We moved on to Titchwell, failing to locate the Woodcock but we did find our first Chiffchaff at the beginning of the Meadow Trail. As we walked the main footpath a Bittern dropped into the reedbed and slowly began to walk through the reeds, giving several opportunities to view it.

Before heading for home we stopped at Cockley Cley hoping to connect with Willow Tit. We found the feeding station back up and running and it was attracting a steady flow of birds. Blue, Great, Coal, Marsh and Willow Tits all came in to feed. Both Marsh and Willow Tits were very vocal as they flew in to feed making ID very easy.

Feeding Station 

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Black Redstart, Walthamstow Wetlands

Time was limited today, so we decided to visit Walthamstow Wetlands. After negotiating the heavy morning traffic we then went about renewing the permits that allow early morning access to the site. We spent the first hour trying and failing to locate the Firecrests along the river near the car park and along the track towards the Engine Room.

Engine Room (Reserve Centre)

We decided to try our luck with the Black Redstart that had taken up residence around the tower at the southern end of Lockwood Reservoir. Before we had reached the reservoir we spotted the target perched on the lifebuoy next to the tower. Brian managed to grab the photo below.

Black Redstart

The tower and Lifebouy the Redstart was using

Lockwood Reservoir was like a millpond

A Peregrine was perched on a nearby pylon finishing off a kill it had recently made before the local crows forced it to move, The crows harassed it in the air but in truth, the Peregrine just seemed to be playing with the crows.

After crossing Forest Road again we joined the locals who had managed to find the pair of Bearded Tits among the reeds by the Engine Room. 

We had around an hour left before we had to leave, so we returned to our search for Firecrests. We walked up and down the footpath next to the car park and eventually, Brian spotted one of the Firecrests flitting about with a small flock of Long-tailed Tits. An added bonus while searching for the Firecrest was a Sparrowhawk that flew low through the trees along the riverbank and up and over the road.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Kent Birding: Dungeness, Hythe and Chatham

The first visit to Dungeness this year started with a brief Seawatch from the hide. In freezing conditions, we managed to add Gannet and razorbill to the year list. There were various sized flocks of Guillemots and several Razorbills flying past east. A flock of seven Red-throated Divers flew east and two Kittiwakes were also seen. 

View from seawatching hide

We headed back along Dungeness Road and drove along the entrance track, stopping to search for Tree Sparrows. Disappointingly we didn't find any in the front or back garden of the lodge. It's the first time in ten years of visiting that we have failed to see this species here. I hope we were just unlucky and it's not a decline of this species at Dungeness. A male Smew was found onTanner's Pool and a Great White Egret was in the same area. A walk along the track to Hooker's Pit produced a well overdue Cetti's Warbler and also several "pinging" Bearded Tits.

We left Dungeness and headed fifteen miles north along the coast to Hythe. Where we found two Purple Sandpipers on the groynes opposite the  Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant and Bar. 

The final stop before heading for home was to Chatham Maritime Marina where after a quick drive around the marina we located two of the three Shag on basin No2.


Saturday, 18 January 2020

Cliffe Pools, The search for Grebes

With limited time available today, we decided to visit Cliffe Pools and try to locate the two species of Grebes we were missing this year. Alpha Pool had been host to both Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes in recent days so we were hopeful of locating them this morning. It's a bit of a challenge to reach Alpha Pool and with the amount of rain, we have had recently the footpaths were very muddy. Upon reaching the pool we began scanning through the masses of Little Grebes (they seemed to be everywhere we scanned on the pool) and eventually located a single Black-necked Grebe at the Southern end. With no sign of the Red-necked Grebe, we walked further north towards Cliffe Fort and found the Red-necked Grebe close to the bank in front of the disused jetty of the former Blue Circle Sailing Club.

We returned to the car park and took the footpath towards Flamingo Pool passing Cliffe Creek on the way. 

Cliffe Creek
No new additions to the year list were added from the creek or Flamingo Pool, but there were large flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover to be seen along with double figures of Skylark several Redshank and a single Avocet.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Rainham Marshes, A first visit of 2020

This afternoon we visited Rainham Marshes and took a walk along the foreshore of the Thames. We parked at the Riverside car park and scanned the Concrete Barges for any sign of Rock or Water Pipits. Unfortunately, there was no sign of either species today. 

The Concrete Barges

We continued along the footpath and as we reached the "Land and Water" platform we found five Common Snipe resting among the rocks.

Common Snipe

As we approached Aveley Bay we added another year tick when a Yellow-legged Gull was found among the numerous other gulls. We managed some decent scope views before it flew off towards the landfill. From here we walked along the sea wall towards the reserve centre. We checked every rock along the route and were rewarded with excellent views of both Water and Rock Pipits. We didn't have time to walk around the reserve so scoped the pools from the sea wall. After several scans, Brian managed to pick out two Ruff among the large Lapwing flocks. It was a short but productive visit with five additions to the year list and only 30 minutes from home.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Lynford Arboretum, Thetford

The main target this morning was the Hawfinch at Lynford. Arriving at first light we made our way towards the "Paddock", on the way stopping at the bridge and connecting with Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Greenfinch, Nuthatch, and Siskin. All of which were new additions to the year list. Scanning the paddock several Redwing were seen as well as Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush. Another scan of the area and the first Hawfinch is seen. During the visit, we had five separate sightings of Hawfinch of at least two individual birds.

Lynford Arboretum "The Paddock"

A walk around the outer boundary fence of the paddock added more Marsh and Coal Tits plus Nuthatch and Treecreeper. I added a female Bullfinch to my year list but it disappeared just as quickly as it appeared. On the way back to the car we stopped again at the feeding station and added a surprise year tick with a Yellowhammer.

Marsh Tit

The remainder of the day proved less productive, but we did manage to get some nice scope views of a Goshawk when we stopped to scan the displaying Buzzards

Scanning for Goshawk

Monday, 6 January 2020

Richard's Pipit: Halstow Marshes, Kent

On route to Halstow Marshes in Kent, we stopped off at Eagle Pond in Snaresbrook and quickly located the adult Caspian Gull. It was loafing at the back of the pond in the company of two Canada Geese and a Cormorant.

Traveling along the A2 towards High Halstow, we had very little information as to where to park, so we called in at the RSPB Northward Hill Centre. The staff were very helpful and we were soon following the directions to Clinch Street to begin the long walk out towards Egypt Bay. The walk to the bay was around 3km and the only person we saw was Kent birder Barry Wright who was on his way back. A quick chat and we learn some very helpful info on the best areas to look for the Richard's Pipit. I picked up a couple of year ticks on route with two Reed Buntings and a flock of nine Stock Doves. The next hour was spent trying to pin down the Richard's Pipit. It was constantly on the move. Finally, with some patience, we managed some decent bin and scope views.

Halstow Marshes

Richard's pipit

We paid our respects to the birders who never made it back!

As we approached the final wooden stile we were rewarded with a superb Barn Owl perched in a small tree. It soon began to hunt along the edges of the field and was a nice reward for the 7.5km (4.6mi) walk out and back.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Birding Norfolks East Coast

Flush with our successful trip to Abberton yesterday and with better weather forecast today we hatched a plan to see a few more quality birds today. We began with a visit to Buckenham Marshes and despite the early morning sun making viewing difficult we managed to locate the Taiga Bean Geese shortly after arrival.

With the plan off to a good start, we headed seven miles North-East and stopped at Acle Bridge. Shortly after parking the car we were looking at twenty-five Common Cranes.
Ludham Bridge was our next destination and again we connected with both Whooper and Bewick's Swans immediately. We also added Golden Plover to the list when a flock of 50+ birds was seen.

Whooper and Bewick's Swans

The main target today was the Desert Wheatear at Eccles-on-Sea and we were now only 10 miles away from it. After parking, at Cart Gap pay & display car park we walked along the beach and found the Wheatear busily feeding among the concrete sea defenses.

Desert Wheatear

Heading back down the East coast we stopped at Hollesley Marshes in Suffolk and found a Peregrine perched in a tree a short distance from the car park. The main target here was the Siberian Stonechat and we found it in the field next to the winter flood shortly after arriving. It then flew to brambles close to the sea wall, giving superb views before it flew back into the thicker cover of the reedbed

Siberian Stonechat

Our final stop of the day was to Shingle Street where we spotted a Short-eared Owl perched on a metal post in front of one of the resident's houses.

I ended the day with another twelve additions to the year list and for the second day in a row, we had connected with every single target on our list.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Abberton Reservoir, Delivers

After the full days birding in Norfolk on New Years Day, we decided to stay closer to home and visit Abberton Reservoir. 

Heading up the A12 we had several targets in mind. We started the day at Layer Breton Causeway and quickly spotted a male Goosander and two redhead Smew. We then turned our attention to the large flock of Tufted Ducks hoping to find the Ring-necked Duck among them. The Ring-neck could not be found despite several lengthy searches, but we did find four male Greater Scaup.

Greater Scaup, Tufted Ducks and Pochard

The light rain that had been falling all morning had now become much heavier so we made our way to Wigborough Bay and took shelter in the hide. Although we were now out of the rain the bay itself proved less rewarding with only three Great White Egret of any note.

Hide overlooking Wigborough Bay

At Billets Farm viewpoint we added Stonechat and Skylark to the new year's list before moving on to Layer de la Haye Causeway. Another Redhead Smew was found along with good numbers of male and female Goosanders. Then a real surprise, a Swallow was spotted flying low along the causeway! Whether it can find enough food to survive is unlikely but I hope it can.

The idea of driving eighty-eight miles to Eccles-on-Sea for the Desert Wheatear was talked about but quickly dismissed, and instead, we headed for Abberton Church which was only five miles away. This proved to be a very good decision as we managed to find good numbers of Corn Bunting on the fence wires on the walk down to the viewpoint. A male Merlin flew low across the water and dropped onto a small island causing panic among the ducks. The large flocks of Teal took to the air and re-located closer to our position. Scanning through the flock we managed to find the Green-winged Teal among them. The Green-winged Teal had not been reported at all the previous day, so we were very happy to find it today. Another scan of the reservoir and the Black-throated Diver is also found!

We ended the day back at Layer Bretton Causeway and eventually found the Ring-necked Duck among the Tufted Duck and Pochard. As we were leaving for home a Kingfisher was spotted among the overhanging branches.

Ring-necked Duck

The weather today was miserable with constant grey skies and a mixture of light and heavy rain, but thankfully the birding was the complete opposite. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

A new birding year and decade begins in Norfolk

Another birding year begins with a day in Norfolk. We had a few targets in mind as we set off this morning. Our first target was the Alaskan Yellow Wagtail at Sedgeford. It had been feeding among the dung heaps along the farm track on previous days. Shortly after first light, the Wagtail was located. It remained distant and with a big day ahead we decided to move on and if time allowed we would return at the end of the day.

Alaskan Yellow Wagtail

As we drove through Docking we spotted two Red Kites resting on the grass, then suddenly they took to the air and a ringtail Hen Harrier flew low across the same field. It crossed the road and headed into the next field before it was lost to view. At Burnham, we found three Cattle Egrets a small group of White-fronted Geese and a couple of Grey partridge. At Wells, we were hoping the Rough-legged Buzzard was still in the area. Thankfully it was still present, perched in a small bush between two small huts.

Rough-legged Buzzard

Lady Anne's Drive at Holkham was our next destination, the parking area was packed and the fun run across the road at  Holkham Park only added to the congestion. We made our way along the boardwalk and out onto the beach quickly adding Shorelark and Snow Bunting to the days total. A short sea watch from Holkham Gap added a Velvet Scoter among the Massive rafts of Common Scoter. A Long-tailed Duck and a single Red-throated Diver were also found. 

Snow Bunting

 Common and Velvet Scoter

On route to Titchwell, we stopped at Choseley and located the two Tundra Bean Geese among the large numbers of Pink-footed Geese. Titchwell produced several additions to the year list including Spotted Redshank, Knot, Ringed Plover, Water rail, Red-breasted Merganser, and a Slavonian Grebe. With the light fading, we stopped briefly at Thornham and found a small flock of Twite before ending the day at Hunstanton cliffs, where we added several Fulmars below the cliffs.

A satisfying start to a new birding year.