Wednesday 27 September 2023

White-rumped Sandpiper, Frampton Marsh

A 4am call this morning from Brian, saw us heading north into Lincolnshire and a visit to Frampton Marsh. We briefly toyed with the idea of heading further north to Blacktoft Sands and the possibility of connecting with the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper but decided against it.

Having enjoyed an incredible day in Wales on the 23rd, managing to see two American warblers, today we were hoping to connect with two American waders. 

We arrived around 7am and immediately saw eleven Whooper Swans from the visitor centre decking. They would soon fly southwest to feed in the adjoining fields. We walked to Reedbed Hide and found over twenty Curlew Sandpipers, several Little Stint, and a single Green Sandpiper. A Kingfisher flew straight past the hide and landed on a post nearby. Another scan and we finally found the Lesser Yellowlegs feeding along a distant sandy island. 

We walked back towards the reserve centre hoping to get closer views of the Lesser Yellowlegs and while doing so we managed to find the White-rumped Sandpiper. At first, it was distant but when the wader flock was flushed by a hunting Peregrine it settled back down right in front of us.


Little Stint

Curlew Sandpiper

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

White-rumped Sandpiper

White-rumped Sandpiper

Sunday 24 September 2023

Pallid Harrier: Wallasea Island, Essex

Brian had a free afternoon today, so we decided to visit Wallasea Island. It's situated on the eastern side of Essex. The reserve has saltmarsh, mudflats, marshland, lagoons, ditches, and sea, which is bordered to the north by the River Crouch and to the south by the River Roach. 

Three million tonnes of earth from the Crossrail project was bought by boat to the reserve to raise the land above sea level, creating the area now known as Jubilee Marsh.

We took the trail out towards Caroline's hide but turned east to the viewing mound hoping to connect with the Pallid Harrier that had been spending time on the reserve in recent days. The tide was out and there were very few waders present on the lagoons. I was amazed by the sheer number of Little Egrets on site. There were well over a hundred seen! A Peregrine was sitting among the grass at the back of Fitzroy Lagoon and a second bird was seen from the viewing mound. We spent a couple of hours scanning the eastern section of the reserve watching Buzzards, Kestrels, Marsh Harriers, and a female Hen Harrier that looked like it was in heavy moult. Then around 4pm, the juvenile Pallid Harrier appeared over Jubilee Marsh. It flew low along the fence line eventually crossing the path to hunt over Allfleets Marsh. We were treated to some stunning views as it slowly flew past us and headed back over the path. 

On the walk back along the sea wall towards the car park the Pallid Harrier was spotted again. This time it was being harassed by a Sparrowhawk. 

We didn't manage to find any Short-eared Owls on this trip but did find a male Merlin sitting among a ploughed field as we left the reserve. 

Pallid Harrier

Saturday 23 September 2023

Magnolia and Canada Warblers, Pembrokeshire

When news broke of a Magnolia Warbler being found at St Govan's Head in Pembrokeshire Wales Brian was keen to go. However, family commitments thwarted our plans, but delaying the trip would prove a masterstroke of luck. 

Friday evening and the news of the bird apparently going to roost was the little nudge we needed and we made plans for the trip. Brian picked me up at 12.30am and we set off on the 275-mile journey to Wales. It was a clear night which added some apprehension to the journey, thoughts like would the bird have stayed overnight? Have we left it too late? crossed our minds.

We arrived at the car park at 5.15am, and had an hour's rest up before the light improved enough to make our way down the path and begin the search for the warbler. A line of white tape had been erected along the side of the field as a barrier to prevent further encroachment onto MOD land. There had been no sightings for an hour when suddenly it was spotted by a couple of guys, the crowd converged on their location, and after a few directions, I had it in view! Over the next hour, we enjoyed several views as it moved in and around the scrub, often sitting out in the open among the berry bushes. We also enjoyed the sight and sound of Choughs and Ravens flying overhead.

The atmosphere was relaxed and jovial, however, this quickly changed when news broke that a Canada Warbler a potential first for Britain had now been found in the sallows along Ermigate Lane close to Stack Rocks car park!! 

Upon arrival, we found some birders had chosen to park up on the grass verges along Ermigate Lane. We opted to park in the car park and walk the short distance back. We joined the search, and after an hour someone spotted it among the dense cover at the back of the sallows. I wasn't so lucky and failed to see it. Thankfully it was spotted again and this time I was in the right place at the right time. Brian had earlier moved along the track and had already enjoyed some superb if brief views before rejoining me. The crowds by this time were growing, and people were becoming more unhappy with the cars parked along the entrance track, so we headed back to the car park to begin the five-hour journey home.

It's been a week to remember,  American Cliff Swallow on Wednesday, and then two absolute stunners Magnolia and Canada Warblers today. Sometimes not being able to drop everything and go straight away can pay dividends, today was one of those days.

Thursday 21 September 2023

American Cliff Swallow: North Foreland, Kent

Yesterday afternoon a Red-rumped Swallow was reported over a cabbage field in Kent. I didn't give it much thought until it was re-identified as an American Cliff Swallow! Having missed the Minsmere bird in 2016 I was keen to make the trip. However, events conspired against us, Brian was busy and wasn't available until late afternoon, by which time the Dartford crossing had been closed and there were two-hour delays. We decided we would wait until today and go if positive news came through.

The overnight weather forecast was in our favour and by 7am this morning the bird had been seen flying between the Captain Digby Pub and the car park. We left at 9am and after a clear run arrived at Joss Bay car park at 10.50am. On route, the swallow had been reported over the cabbage field once again. Upon arrival, we joined the other birders present, who were split up into several small groups stretched out along the edge of the cabbage field. The bird had not been seen for half an hour or so.

Brian had been rushing around at home before we left and had managed to leave his camera and bins at home! He borrowed Dad's bins and within a few minutes was shouting to the gathered birders that he had picked up the swallow flying along the cliff face towards us. We enjoyed several views as it circled over the cabbage field and along the cliffs within a small flock of House Martins, Sand Martins, and a single Swallow. 

It had taken seven years after missing the Minsmere bird but today I finally managed to add American Cliff Swallow to my life list. 

Joss Bay

Cabbage Field and North Foreland Lighthouse

Thursday 14 September 2023

Buff-breasted Sandpiper: Minsmere, Suffolk

A day without any commitments is a rare occurrence of late, so we took advantage of the opportunity and headed for Minsmere. Arriving at first light we headed off along North Wall and took the new boardwalk to East Hide. We didn't intend to walk the whole reserve, so set a target of 80 species to see.

Three Spoonbills were seen feeding out on the scrape as soon as we entered the hide. After a more thorough search, we added four species of sandpiper, Common, Green, Curlew, and Wood were all seen at the back edge of East Scrape. Three Spotted Redshank and three Little Stints were then found among a group of Dunlin. A scan through the Black-tailed Godwits revealed a couple of Bar-tailed among them along with Several Knot. Ringed Plover and Grey Plover were also added to the day and wader count.

We moved on to the Public Viewpoint and managed to find the target bird of the day a Buff-breasted Sandpiper. It was well hidden below one of the islands on East Scrape but would have been out of view from the East Hide.

Start of new boardwalk leading to East Hide

View across the reserve towards Sizewell

Great White Egret

A Peregrine came through a flushed everything on the scrape including the Buff-breasted. Luckily after several flights around the scrape it landed right in front of us. A Great White Egret flew in and joined a Grey Heron and two Little Egrets on one of the islands. 

View of South Scrape from the Public Hide

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

We had hoped to see Dartford Warbler on the reserve, but having failed we decided to take a walk out on the heath, where it proved far more challenging than we had expected. Plenty of Stonechats were seen and eventually, we had views of two distant Dartford Warblers.

A quick check on the day's total came to exactly 80 species! This could have been more if we had walked the whole reserve but we were happy to sit and watch the birds on the scrapes for the majority of the time.

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Aquatic Warbler: Upper Beeding, West Sussex

Having missed a chance last month to see an Aquatic Warbler at Landguard in Suffolk, I was keen to make the trip to West Sussex this morning. Unfortunately, I had an early morning job to do, so we decided to wait on positive news before travelling. 

Having completed the job, I checked the bird news service. There had already been two positive reports of the bird's continued presence. 

That was good enough for us and after meeting up with Brian we set off around 8.45am. After a smooth and trouble-free journey, we parked up along the High Street, Upper Beeding at 10.30am. We took the footpath along the east side of the River Adur for 900m until we joined a group of thirty other birders standing on the grass bank looking at a Hawthorn bush. The bird had not been seen since 10am. The last sighting of the bird had been within the Hawthorn bush, so we began scanning the bush. There was no sign of the bird for an hour until two local dog walkers walked past the bush. The bird flew low and left before flying behind the bush and briefly onto the footpath. It didn't stay long and soon headed off into the fenced-off field and further away along the fence line.  

It soon flew back across the path and dived down into thick cover below the footpath where it remained hidden for the next hour. Suddenly it took flight heading back towards the Hawthorn bush. It landed in a dead Hogweed and began working its way towards the top, giving some stunning views.

We managed several flight views after this as it flew back and forth along the thick grass. It then crossed the river and allowed several views as it perched among the tall waterside grasses.

While waiting for the warbler to reveal itself, Brian picked out a Spotted Flycatcher in a distant tree and I also had sightings of two Kingfishers, two yellow Wagtails, a yellowhammer, and a Raven.

Aquatic Warbler

The Hawthorn bush and grass it was seen in

Waiting for the warbler to reappear

Friday 1 September 2023

Osprey: Bowyer's Water, Lee Valley

An Osprey was reported at Bowyer's Water in the Lee Valley on the 28th of August. Having not seen an Osprey this year, and worse than that I hadn't seen one in all the years I used to call this site my local patch! So today I had hopes of putting that record right, by visiting late morning. There had only been one report so far today at 9.10am. I decided to set up on the boardwalk so that I had a view of the entire lake. After an hour or so the Osprey suddenly appeared over the treetops and began hunting across the lake. It made one unsuccessful dive but had more luck on its second attempt when it came up with a smallish fish, probably a Perch.

Having caught the fish it quickly headed off in the direction of the Gunpowder mill area.

My first Osprey of the year and even more pleasing to finally add the species to my patch list as I headed for home.