Sunday, 29 June 2014

Rosy and Red

Saturday 28th June 2014.
Suffolk, Norfolk and the Brecks with Paul and Ephraim. First stop was Lowestoft and hopefully a Rose-coloured Starling. It did play hardball for a few minutes but was located asleep and not showing at all well in a fir tree. After sometime it woke up and showed for us. First of all on the side of the tree it had been sleeping in and then after disappearing for a short while it re-appeared in the same fir tree but viewed from just around the corner. We enjoyed some nice views but rba reported a Red-backed Shrike at Winterton, in the North Dunes. Although we were enjoying the Rose-coloured Starling's company we decided to head off to Winterton. On route no further news of the Shrike and only reported on rba put some doubt in our minds. On arrival at Winterton-on-Sea we made our way to the tallest dunes near the "toad pools" and after a bit of searching and with some help from another birder we connected with the female Red-backed Shrike. Weather was really overcast and we did get some light rain at times but still some nice views of the Shrike were had. So where to go next? We came up with Strumpshaw Fen, more in hope than expectation of connecting with a Swallowtail butterfly. We of course failed dismally, a bit too late in the year and not good weather conditions either. However there was some kind of "family day" on at the reserve and lots of activities going on. One volunteer had set up a moth trap overnight and had a nice selection of Hawk Moths for us to look at. A wander around the reserve produced a few butterflies and a couple of orchids but of course no Swallowtails. We visited the Fen hide where up to 6 Marsh Harrier put on a good show and a Hobby hunting low over the water and reedbed was nice to see. As we neared the end of our circuit of the reserve a rather late Cuckoo was heard and the seen perched distantly in a dead tree. Time to head for home now but one more stop, this time in the Brecks and hopefully Stone Curlew. Most of the journey to the Brecks was in torrential rain but lucky for us it had all but stopped by the time we arrived. A decent stop it was too as we connected with 8 Stone Curlew (4 adult and 4 juvenile). We could also hear several calling. Time to head home now. Many thanks to Paul for driving (again!) and to Ephraim for the chocolate and refraining from telling us his terrible jokes. Some pics below.


Friday, 27 June 2014

Chobham Woodcock and Nightjar

Thursday 26/06/2014.
An evening visit to Chobham Common with Paul, Samuel and Ephraim. Our target birds, Nightjar and Woodcock. It was raining all the way to Chobham but soon after we arrived it had all but stopped, not ideal for our intended targets but we made our way up onto the common anyway. Fairly soon we heard a Woodcock and connected with it in flight. Then our first Nightjar churring and then seen perched in a Silver Birch. Not long on the common and both our target birds. A good start given the weather conditions. We stayed in area where we always have success with both Woodcock and Nightjar. Over the next hour or so we heard many and saw about 6 of each species. The highlight being 3 Nightjar flying quite close to where we were standing. On the way back to the car park 2 Gloworms were a nice finish to our evening.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Gills Lap Dancing

A trip to Ashdown Forest with Brendan, Dave and Ephraim. We left the Watford area about 07:30 and arrived at Gills Lap car park sometime after 09:00. On route reports were that our target bird a Short-toed Eagle was perched in some pines. We parked up in Gills Lap car park and were unloading our optics when we were informed the Short-toed Eagle had left it's perch and was flying. This news of course had us running down the road. We soon connected with the Eagle in flight as it searched for prey. It swooped down and came up with a fair size snake and we watched as it slowly swallowed the snake while still on the wing. Then it perched up fairly distantly, perhaps to digest it's catch? Then after a while it was up again and again it swooped down to the ground and came up with something smaller, maybe a slowworm or lizard. Then same again it perched up for a while before performing the same routine once more. The Eagle then left it's perch and flew, this time it flew out of sight and after a bit of a wait we decided it was lunchtime. We had a team meeting to decide where to go next, but instead of heading off we decided to hang around to see if the Short-toed Eagle put in another appearance or perhaps catch sight of a Honey Buzzard. But first a visit to the ice cream van, thanks Brendan! Sitting in the shade and eating ice cream the Short-toed Eagle was spotted distantly and gaining height. Then not long after it was reported from the Long car park on the A22. As we were quite comfortable sitting in the shade eating ice cream we decided not to chase the Eagle but maybe wait to see if it flew back to Gills Lap. However, as we had finished our ice creams and the Short-toed Eagle was reported as "showing well" perched in a pine from the Long car park, we made our way over. We joined the large number of already assembled birders and had good views of the Short-toed Eagle as it perched in the top of a pine. It then left it's perch and flew around, this time offering good flight views. It then disappeared out of site and roughly back in direction of Gills Lap car park. We didn't chase it this time but hung around where we were but no luck with Honey Buzzard.  Great bird and nice ice cream.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Spectacled the Dog's Testicles

Another visit to Norfolk, this time with Dave and Paul. A much later start as I had to give my better half a lift to work. This meant we did not arrive at Burnham Overy until after 2pm. After some improvised parking we made our way towards Gun Hill. Here we joined about 20 other birders. We waited for a few minutes and the Spectacled Warbler flew into the sueda right in front of us, it was carrying nest material and disappeared deep in the bush. It flew out after a short while and perched up and sang on the sueda before flying off. It did this several times while we were there. We enjoyed the Spectacled Warbler for a couple of hours and then headed off to Holme Dunes where a Montague's Harrier had been reported. On our walk back to the car 2 Spoonbill and 2 Little Tern were nice to see. On route news reached us that the Monties had been seen at Titchwell. As we had passed Titchwell we decided to keep going to Holme. We stayed at Holme for a couple of hours but the Monties did not  return. A few Marsh Harriers, a Lesser Whitethroat collecting food and a Yellow Wagtail with the horses provided some interest. Then back home in time to pick the good lady up from work. Spectacled Warbler and Little Tern pics below. I'm on twitter @sh4rpy

Monday, 2 June 2014

Lapwing Nest

My nephew Sam drives a large earth moving vehicle. He stumbled across this Lapwing nest near Heathrow Airport. Luckily it's not in an area that's being worked on.

Slow Start but Strong Finish

Saturday 31st May 2014.
A trip to Norfolk and later Cambridgeshire with Paul and Brendan. Again a late start as I had to take my better half to work. We left about 07:20 and progress was fairly slow due to Tankers (correct spelling!) and Tractors. We started the Norfolk leg of our trip with our usual dip of Golden Pheasant at Wolfreton. Next stop was a Monties site but again nothing doing here. So although the Black-headed Bunting was only reported as showing every 3 or 4 hours , we decided to give it a go. So off we headed to the disused pig farm at West Runton. We joined about 15 other birders and waited patiently, after about an hour and three quarters a birder we had seen at the Monties site called the Black-headed Bunting. It offered reasonable scope views but then flew towards us for a really good view. Then up and off it went and appeared to land in the back gardens of some nearby houses. A Red-necked Phalarope had been reported in Cambridgeshire, so as it was kind of on our way home we put the village of Coates into the sat-nav. We had some difficulty finding the right site but a helpful local and RSPB warden soon put us in the right spot. The Red-necked Phalarope was soon found but unfortunately for a bird of it's size very distant. An added bonus here were 2 Common Crane. We stayed here for quite a while hoping to catch a glimpse of a Bittern we could here booming but no luck.
As usual we kept a day list which was a total of 75 species; Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Jackdaw, Rook, Starling, House Martin, House Sparrow, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Wood Pigeon, Mallard, Chaffinch, Swallow, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Collared Dove, Swift, Blackcap, Goldcrest, Lapwing, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, Chiffchaff, Jay, Wren, Song Thrush, Yellowhammer, Moorhen, Buzzard, Skylark, Grey Partridge, Common Gull, Linnet, Whitethroat, Stock Dove, Sand Martin, Greenfinch, Herring Gull, Cormorant, Black-headed Bunting, Lesser black-backed Gull, Reed Bunting, Cuckoo, Coot, Cetti's Warbler, Greylag Goose, Snipe, Tufted Duck, Great-crested Grebe, Red Kite, Barn Owl, Shelduck, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Gadwall, Wigeon, Red-necked Phalarope, Common Crane, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Dunlin, Shoveler, Common Tern, Canada Goose, Oystercatcher, Bittern (booming). Paul F's Black-head Bunting pic below.