Monday 27 December 2021

Pacific Diver: Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir, Glamorgan

Ever since a Pacific Diver was found on a Glamorgan reservoir on the 11th, Brian had been itching to see it. It would be a lifer for all three of us and would also complete the set of divers seen in Britain. But it just hadn't been possible. Transport issues, no entry to the reservoir, and only very distant views from outside contributed to our decision not to travel. But with the bird's continued presence and a seemingly more tolerant approach to birders allowed on-site within the last week we cracked and made plans for this morning. 
We left at 5am, and after 200 miles along the M4, we arrived around 8.30 having encountered some heavy rain showers on the way. We parked in Margam Cemetery and were soon joined by another couple of birders, one of which had made the trip earlier in the week and knew a good spot to scope the reservoir from. I hadn't even set the scope up when Brian had spotted the diver in the Northeast corner!

Viewing area from Margam Crematorium

Pacific Diver


Thursday 23 December 2021

Essex and London birding in December

With Brian's car off the road since the trip to Flamborough, It was down to dad to provide the transport. we made several trips within the home county in December.  On the 12th we twitched a local rarity, a Red-necked Grebe at King George V Reservoir, and managed to connect with all five species of grebe while on-site as well as decent views of the Great Northern Diver for another welcome year tick.

King George V Reservoir

On the 15th we made an early morning trip to Wallasea Island,  shortly after parking the car we enjoyed close views of Corn Bunting and had distant views of a ringtail Hen Harrier. As we made our way out towards Caroline's Hide, three Twite flew directly overhead and landed among the reeds ahead of us. From the hide, we located three Spoonbill on Stokes lagoon and a male Merlin perched on a small bush in the distance. As we started the walk back to the car Brian spotted another ringtail Hen Harrier and we watched it for several minutes as it hunted along the sea wall bordering the River Crouch.

The path leading to Caroline's Hide

One of the views from the hide

While at Wallasea, the continued presence of the Black Guillemot at Gunners Park was reported. We were only a few miles away and decided to head south and hope it was still present. A short walk to the sea wall and the Guillemot was seen immediately to the left of Barge pier. A new addition to my Essex list.

Black Guillemot

Yesterday we made the seven-mile trip to Walthamstow Marsh, hoping to connect with the Dusky Warbler that had been present since the 14th. After a couple of hours, there was no sign of the bird, and we headed towards the car park. We walked along the footpath bordering the railway line and met another birder who said he had heard the Dusky Warbler. After several minutes we heard it call and after staking out the area, eventually enjoyed several excellent sightings as it flitted about among the brambles either side of the fence.

Sunday 7 November 2021

Taiga Flycatcher, Flamborough Head

A Taiga Flycatcher was found at Flamborough on the 4th of November, unfortunately, a pre-arranged blood test prevented me from going the following day. However, with regular reports of the bird's continued presence throughout the day, Brian decided he was heading north early this morning.

We left at 4.30am with a plan to drop in at North Cave Wetlands and hopefully catch up with a Green-winged Teal that had been present since the 22nd of October. We parked up and headed along the footpath towards Turret Hide. The hide overlooks Island Lake and as soon as we entered the Green-winged Teal was found around the small island right in front of the hide. This was my first visit to this reserve and is one I would very much like to explore more thoroughly on another visit.

Footpath leading to Turret Hide

View from Turret Hide overlooking Island Lake

Green-winged Teal

Having received no news either way on the Flycatcher, we decided to head off to Blacktoft Sands and hopefully connect with the long-staying White-tailed Plover.  Having seen the Rainham bird in 2010 we hadn't needed to visit beforehand. However, it was now only 20 miles from our location so it was an easy decision to visit. As with the Green-winged Teal, the White-tailed Plover was seen as soon as we entered Xerox hide. We were watching the bird feeding alongside Redshank and Dunlin when news came through that the Flycatcher had been found.

White-tailed Plover

We left Blacktoft Sands soon afterward and headed North-East, arriving at the car park along South Sea Road around 11am. A short walk from the car park and we are looking at a Red-flanked Bluetail. It's flitting about at the back of a group of trees adjacent to the car park. Further along, the path is a larger group of birders all intently focused on the top of nearby trees trying to locate the Flycatcher. We joined them and were soon enjoying our first views of the bird among the tree canopy. With patience and following the bird's movements we enjoyed some excellent views. It remained high up in the canopy for the majority of the time we were present but did venture lower on occasions. It was also nice to hear it call several times.

Taiga Flycatcher

We left for home but encountered car troubles on the way. Luckily we were able to get Greenflag recovery and eventually arrived home at 2.30am via three service station drop-offs and pick-ups.

Monday 1 November 2021

Greater Short-toed Lark, My 400th British Bird

At the start of the year, my goal was to reach the 400 BOU life list target. As the new year began my list total was 394. Unfortunately due to Covid restrictions, the first 3 months of the year put paid to any chance of new additions to my list. The restrictions began to ease in April but we were still not sharing a car with Brian which meant I missed the Mockingbird in Devon and the American Herring Gull in Cornwall. My first addition to the list arrived at the end of April when dad and I travelled to Barcombe Cross in East Sussex. The White-throated Sparrow made us wait before suddenly appearing at the picnic table after an anxious wait. (Total 395)

White-throated Sparrow

It wasn't until June 12th that I had the chance to add to my list. We were now able to share a car with Brian and he offered to make a return trip to Ham Wall in Somerset for a River Warbler that he had already seen the previous week. It had been present since the 4th June and thankfully it was still reeling away when we arrived. It showed superbly for the majority of the time we were on site (Total 396)

River Warbler

June 30th saw us heading north to Bempton Cliffs hoping to connect with the Black-browed Albatross. We left home at 12.30am and arrived before first light hoping it had roosted on the cliffs overnight. The news was not good and after two and a half hours there was no sign! Then disappointment turned to joy and relief when it suddenly was seen flying towards the viewpoint. We watched it flying back and forth before it settled on the cliffs allowing for some fantastic views. (Total 397)

Black-browed Albatross

Black Stork had long been on my wish list and in August I had the chance of seeing one. The first report of a juvenile was on the 8th. When it was still being reported on the 17th, we made the trip to Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire. We arrived to negative news but after a short walk picked it up in flight. We managed several flights views and on a couple of occasions watched it resting on the ground before being flushed by the farmer. (Total 398)

Black Stork

After a quiet September, A Long-toed Stint was found at St Aidan's RSPB reserve in West Yorkshire on the 8th. We made the trip the next day and thankfully after negative news the stint was re-found. Being only the third record for Britain, it naturally attracted big crowds. My list now stood on 400, but I had included the Black-eared Wheatear in Lancashire, which as yet has not been accepted. So to be sure of hitting my target I needed another lifer. (Total 399)

Today I had the chance when Brian offered to take me to West Runton for the Greater Short-toed Lark. It had been present since the 29th and it was still being reported yesterday. The journey to West Runton did not go to plan. A journey that should have taken two and a half hours did in fact take 4 hours! On the plus side, we had received positive news on the bird's continued presence.  As we drove down the lane towards the car park we could see a small group of birders looking into a ploughed field. We joined the other birders and Brian managed to pick the bird out among the Skylarks and Linnets. Suddenly the flock took to the air and as yet I hadn't seen the bird! The flock circled around and soon landed in the field again. Thankfully this time I managed to get my scope onto it and enjoyed some great views. This bird might ultimately become my 401st or 402nd if the Black-eared Wheatear is ever accepted or if Ruddy Shelduck is ever added to the British List, but right now, this is my 400th BOU bird. 

The ploughed field at West Runton

Greater Short-toed Lark

After a couple of hours enjoying the bird we moved on and stopped at Cley for a brief Seawatch, where we managed to add Great Skua to the year list. Our final stop before heading home was to Holkham where we walked out towards the gap and found four Shorelarks within the roped-off area

Sunday 24 October 2021

A morning at RSPB Titchwell Marsh

We spent a  very enjoyable morning at Tichwell today. Having left at 5.30am we arrived shortly after 7.30am and made our way along the main footpath to begin scanning the Freshmarsh. We quickly picked out the Grey Phalarope relatively close to the path. My first Pink-footed Geese of 2021 were seen flying overhead. Having been unable to visit any coastal sites in the early part of the year due to Covid restrictions it was good to connect with these again.

Grey Phalarope

The newly created scrapes and islands on the Freshmarsh are proving very attractive to the numerous species of waders. Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Golden Plover, Knot, Ruff, Redshank, Lapwing, Avocets, and Dulin were all present.

Newly created scrapes and islands on the Freshmarsh

The Tidal Marsh produced several more additions to the day total, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Curlew, and Turnstone were all present. We were making our way towards the beach when Brian spotted a Guillemot preening close to the west bank. We were slightly concerned as to its condition but after several dives, it flew up and headed towards the sea.


We reached the beach and headed towards Thornham hoping to connect with the Purple Sandpiper that had been present for several days. We hadn't walked very far when the Sandpiper was spotted. 

Brian taking advantage of some cover

Purple Sandpiper

As we were watching the Sandpiper I spotted a single Snow Bunting. Both birds began to wander closer and closer to our position. Several Sanderling were also busily feeding along the shoreline.

Snow Bunting

A two-hour seawatch produced a smart Slavonian Grebe in Brancaster Bay and Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Mergansers, Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, and Common Scoters were all seen.

Taking a break from the Seawatch


Saturday 9 October 2021

Long-toed Stint, St Aidan's RSPB Nature Reserve

When a small wader was found at St Aidan's RSPB Nature Reserve on Friday it was Initially reported as a Temminck's Stint when seen at a distance, it was soon revised and reported as being a Least Sandpiper. Having seen the Lodmoor bird in 2017 it didn't register too much interest. However, my interest peaked late on Friday evening when the bird was re-identified from photographs as a Long-toed Stint! 
There have only been two accepted British records (Marazion, Cornwall 1970 and Saltholme, Cleveland 1982 with a single record from Ireland (Ballycotton, Cork 1996. This prompted a complete change of plans. We decided to wait on news and react if it was reported. Thankfully after some initial negative news, the bird was reported as still, present at 8.26am. We left home at 9am and arrived on-site by 12.15pm.

St Aidan's Reserve Centre

The road in was lined with cars on both sides for several hundred metres, we took a chance and managed to find a spot in the main car park and soon were heading off along the main track. After a  walk of a mile we joined the masses and soon had our first sighting of the Long-toed Stint. Birders were lined up four-five deep in places and views were limited. Gradually birders began to leave and we eventually found ourselves at the front and enjoyed super views of the bird as it busily fed along the small island on Astley Lake. 
We went through some of the features while observing the bird through the scope, having discussed it at length on the way up. We came away happy that we had added another lifer to the list. If accepted my list would stand at 399 with the Piling Black-eared Wheatear from 2019 also in the pending list it could be that I have reached my 400 target. 

View over the reserve from the visitor centre

Dad looking at the Stint on the small island

There were a few birders already present!

Lined up all along the footpath

This was my first visit to this reserve and it was much larger than I was expecting, Probably a full day would be needed to fully explore all it had to offer. 

Tuesday 17 August 2021

Black Stork, Frampton Marsh RSPB

Black Stork has been on my wish list ever since I started traveling further afield than my local patch. There have been many sightings, but the vast majority have been flyovers and very few had been nailed down to a particular site leaving very little opportunity to connect with any of them.

On the 7th of August, a juvenile was reported in East Yorkshire, Reports continued to come in during the next two days but nearly all were flyovers and it being over 4 hours from home I just dismissed it as another missed opportunity to connect with this species. Early evening on the 12th of August it moved into Lincolnshire and for the next couple of days seemed to be spending its time travelling between Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore Reserves. 

Brian was away on a short break with his grandson, and not due back until the 16th, Thinking the bird would be long gone before his return I dismissed it as another one that got away. Unbelievably it was still being reported at Frampton on the 17th. There had been a couple of positive reports early morning and this was enough for Brian to offer to take me. We set off at 10.30am and arrived around 1pm, only to receive negative news from the reserve staff. We decided to take the footpath south and search the area of the last reports. As we emerged from the avenue of trees, we picked up the Stork high in the air circling above a pylon. It was distant but it was a Black Stork and it was on my list! 

We continued walking along the cross-bank to the sea wall and managed to relocate the Stork in a distant field. It soon took flight again but this time landed on farmland near the reservoir. We enjoyed great scope views before the local farmer started calling his cows in and the stork again took flight and this time landed out of view.

Black Stork


We searched for the Pacific Golden Plover on the walk back to the car park but failed to locate it on the saltmarsh. I did however manage to add Little Stint to my year list before reaching the car park.

Storm clouds gathering

Although a short visit, I had finally added Black Stork to my life list, which currently stands at 398 with the Fluke Hall Eastern Black-eared Wheatear from 2019 still to be accepted/rejected. 

Thursday 5 August 2021

Bonaparte's Gull, Oare Marshes

We spent the morning at Oare Marshes today, hoping to connect with the returning Bonaparte's Gull for another year.

We headed up the ramp and walked along the footpath towards Uplees. A Hoopoe had spent the previous day in the area, but there was no sign of it this morning. The walk back did produce our first Whinchats of the year along with a young Cuckoo busily feeding on caterpillars. A Sparrowhawk, Yellow Wagtail four  Ringed Plovers, and several Curlews were the only other highlights.

We returned to the slipway and began searching for the Bonaparte's Gull. Luckily another birder was already watching it feeding out on the mud.

The rising tide pushed the feeding waders closer inshore and a Curlew Sandpiper was found among them for another year tick.  

The water levels remain high on East Flood, resulting in few wader species being able to land. Only Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, and Ruff were seen.  During the morning we managed to see eleven species of wader, most were on the mudflats before high tide.

Wednesday 4 August 2021

White-rumped Sandpiper, Minsmere

This was to be my first birding trip out since the end of June and the very successful trip to Bempton Cliffs for the Black-browed Albatross. 

An early morning visit to Minsmere was our preferred destination. Arriving shortly after 6am, we took the footpath along North Wall towards the beach. East Hide was only occupied by two other birders and neither had managed to locate either of our target birds. One guy mentioned seeing a couple of small waders in the far corner of the scrape and when we got the scope of them, we were pleased to find the White-rumped Sandpiper busily feeding alongside a Dunlin. It flew to a nearby island and continued feeding among a small group of Dunlin. A Marsh Harrier appeared over the scrape and the panicked waders took to the air. Thankfully they dropped down closer than before and after scanning through the small flock of Dunlin the White-rumped Sandpiper was again present and our other target the Pectoral Sandpiper was also found among them. 

Brian managed to grab the photo below showing both White-rumped and Pectoral Sandpipers together just as they were flushed again.

White-rumped and Pectoral Sandpipers


While searching for our main targets we had managed to locate a couple of Spotted Redshanks, a much overdue year tick.

Spotted redshank

We moved along the beach and began scanning the South Scrape from the public hide. There were large numbers of Common, Sandwich and Little Terns and we managed to find a couple of Little Gulls and a single juvenile Arctic Tern among them.

It was a very enjoyable morning just being out birding again, with five additions to my year list being a very nice bonus.

Wednesday 30 June 2021

Black-browed Albatross: Bempton Cliffs, East Yorkshire

When I began twitching in 2010 the Black-browed Albatross has always been right at the top of my wish list. Previous records since 2010 have been fly-bys or single-day sightings, which meant you needed to be on site when they appeared to have any chance of connecting. So when one was reported on Monday I consoled myself by thinking it would be another brief appearance and didn't think any more of it. Tuesday, and it's reported on the cliffs at Bempton! We should have gone there and then but with 230 miles and four and a half hours traveling, along with our recent record of dipping birds up north we decided to wait and hope it was seen going to roost that evening.

When it was reported on the cliffs above Staple Newk at 9.10pm we hatched a plan to leave at 12.30am and take our chances of it still being on the cliffs at first light this morning. We arrived shortly before 4.30am and headed along the footpath to join around 300 other birders at the New Roll-Up Viewpoint. It looked promising as we approached but that soon changed when we reached the viewpoint to be told there had been no sign this morning! We decided to walk along the cliffs and scan from any vantage points we could find,  hoping it had roosted out of sight of the main viewpoint. But by 7am there had been no sightings. We returned to the viewpoint cursing ourselves for not taking a chance yesterday, then fifteen minutes later the shout went up "THERE IT IS!" It was surprisingly difficult to pick up among the numerous Gannets especially the immature birds, but when it flew along the cliff face it proven much easier to spot. We enjoyed several views over the next couple of hours before it eventually landed on the cliff face among the Gannets, allowing for some stunning scope views.

There's always the risk of dipping, that's just the nature of twitching. You either accept it or you don't do it. Thankfully the plan worked out perfectly today and we had four hours of watching this incredible bird. 

Black-browed Albatross

 On the cliffs among the Gannets

A few of the birders at the viewpoint