Saturday, 28 February 2015

Blackcap(s) in the Garden

Fri 27th Feb 2015
 A female Blackcap has been visiting the feeders in both my front and back gardens recently. A couple of weeks ago I decided to put out some apples. Since putting out the apples a male Blackcap has visited on a couple of occasions.
No pics of the male yet but a couple of the female below. Taken through my living room window.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Wrabness Scoterless but Essex Success from Bradfield

Sat 21st Feb 2015,
A trip to the Stour estuary in sunny Essex with Paul F. Wrabness was the first location visited as our target bird a Surf Scoter was last reported near buoy no4 at the end of Wall Lane. The sat-nav worked it's magic as usual despite Paul ignoring it on a couple of occasions. On arrival we soon located buoy no4 but no sign of the Surf Scoter. The ducks on offer were; Great-crested Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, Shelduck, Wigeon and Teal. Lots of Brent Goose too. The tide was quite away out and a good selection of waders were on the mud; Redshank, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone and Oystercatcher. Gulls; Black-headed, Lesser-black Backed, Great-black Backed, Herring and Common. We stayed for a couple of hours regularly checking rba and birdguides but no news. As the tide was a long way out our logic suggested to us that the Surf Scoter might seek deeper water downstream. We headed about a mile and a half downstream and parked in a nature reserve car park. After studying a map we made our way through some woods in the rough direction of the estuary. Fairly soon we arrived at some kind of construction site. We were the "wrong" side of a railway line too!  A brief discussion and we headed back to the car park and then back to buoy no4. The tide was a bit further in but still no sign of our target bird. A couple of other birders arrived soon after and then after a few minutes they informed us the Scoter had been spotted upstream from Bradfield near buoy no8. They knew how to get to the location "Shore Lane" and kindly waited for us to follow them. Shore Lane is full of deep potholes so if you ever need to view buoys 8 upwards park where the potholes start and walk! There were six birders in total viewing the area near buoy8 and the birder who we had followed soon picked up the Surf Scoter. It was very distant and on the Suffolk side of the estuary. Lucky for us the light was good. We watched the Scoter for some time as it dived and stayed under for quite long periods. So where to go next? Not sure how or why but we decided to go to Lakenheath Fen (Cranes maybe?). Passing through nearby Manningtree we spotted a couple of birders viewing the estuary so we stopped in case they were viewing the Surf Scoter at closer range. Unfortunately they weren't but some close in Pintail were nice to see and then nice views in flight. We exchanged some banter with the other birders whom coincidently we had seen in New Brighton the previous Saturday. Onwards to Lakenheath. Reed Buntings on the feeders outside the vistors centre and 3 or 4 Cetti's warbler calling but not showing themselves and a Common Buzzard were noted on our walk to the Joist Fen viewpoint. We spent some time at the viewpoint hoping to see Cranes but nothing doing. Paul had a couple of glimpses of Bittern as it flew up then dived back down into the reed bed and I had a brief and unusual view of a Bittern swimming quickly across a channel in the reeds. About 6 Marsh Harrier including 2 males were also seen here. A wander back to the car park along the embankment and a Barn Owl showed quite well which we thought at the time was a nice end to our birding day. As we neared the end of our walk back to the car park a Great White Egret flew to the back of the washland.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Blackbird makes an early start

Just as I was leaving for work this morning I noticed a Blackbird with nesting material in the back garden. It flew into the hedge then re-appeared without the nesting material.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Little Bunting in Ashdown Forest

A trip to Old Lodge NR in the heart of the Ashdown Forest, East Sussex.
Paul was in the driving seat for this trip so we made good time. On route we passed the Gills Lap car park which brought make some nice memories of the Short-toed Eagle I had the pleasure of seeing there on 21st June 2014. One or two birders were already on site but no sign of the Little Bunting. A Woodlark showed well on some telegraph wires and many more were singing. We hung around for about 4 hours and many birders came and went but no sign of the Little Bunting. We had just about given up when a considerate local birder hurried up to us to inform us the he had found the Little Bunting. It was about 500 yards from where we were. Twitchy walk time and we arrived at the Little Buntings location, however, it was not showing. We waited for about an hour and it did finally show itself, found by a birder who had only just arrived! It was perched in the branches of a fallen tree and showed quite well although the light was  poor. I had the bird in my scope and was able to get some birders and non-birders on to the Little Bunting. A dozen or so people had assembled and all got to see the bird. After a few minutes it flew off which we took as our cue to leave. On the way back to the car park 5 Konik ponies that live on the reserve were nice to see. Sorry about the Woodlark pic below!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

New Bird at New Brighton

Sat 14th Feb 2015. A trip up to the North-West with Paul F.
Our intended target was a Laughing Gull at New Brighton. The journey was uneventful but a bit slower than we would have liked with 50 mph speed limits on long stretches of most motorways and also some imaginary "debris in road".
We arrived at New Brighton about ten to ten and parked near to the Marine Lake. Some birders were returning to their car looking quite happy so we assumed they had seen our quarry. They pointed to a pontoon where the Laughing Gull likes to hang out, wished us luck and they headed off. The pontoon was a bit of a distance from where we had parked but on inspection the Laughing Gull was in fact the only Gull on the pontoon. A good start to our day! We walked around the Marine Lake towards the pontoon but the Laughing Gull flew just as we arrived but luckily for us it landed on the water in front of us to feed on bread. We took a few pics but the Laughing Gull took off and flew out of sight. We hung around for a bit, then decided to have a wander as we had heard their were two Snow Bunting nearby. During our wander we spoke to several other birders and were able to establish the location for the Snow Buntings. They were not too far away but not walking distance. We decided to head back to the car hoping the Laughing Gull had returned to it's favoured spot. On route we saw a very distant Purple Sandpiper on some rocks. Back at the Marine Lake the Laughing Gull was at the opposite end on some railings so we headed over for another look and one or two more pics. After a few minutes the Laughing Gull took off again and was lost to sight. This was our cue to leave in search of Snow Bunting. A short drive to the east end of Wallasey Golf Course. Parking up near the Coastguards Lookout we headed straight towards the beach. At the beach we lifted our bins and there were the Snow Buntings. Some birders from Wiltshire were close behind us and we were able to get them straight on the Snow Buntings. We moved a bit nearer for a closer view and maybe some photo's but the birds were flushed by some dog walkers and then flushed again quite a distance along the beach. Back to the car and Burton Mere was the next destination to go in the trusty twat-nav our target bird here was a roosting Long-eared Owl. Twat-nav found RSPB Burton Mere no problem and we headed through the visitors centre and along the paths and boardwalk towards the Inner Marsh Farm hide. Seventy or eighty yards before the hide a group of people were assembled including a very helpful RSPB volunteer. He pointed us roughly in the direction of the Long-eared Owl. I raised my bins towards the bush and there was the Long-eared Owl quite deep in but decent views all the same. I also lent my bins to some non birding people who were really pleased to see the owl.
Things were going really well with three direct hits on our target birds so we were quite confident our next target a Waxwing at Orrell Water Park near Wigan (I think?) would be just as co-operative. Twat-nav did it's stuff again and we parked in the Water Park car park and walked the short distance to Moss Road. One or two birders were hanging around and the Waxwing although not showing had been seen recently. Over an hour went by and no sign of the waxwing but some chat with some local birders was enjoyable. The Waxwing did then make an appearance, perched high up in the tall trees that surround the Water Park before flying down to feed on apples that had been impaled on the branches of a tree in a front garden. It offered good views as it fed on the apples and again I lent my bins to some non birding locals that were delighted to see such a "pretty bird". Time now was after three o'clock and a discussion with Paul was whether to stay longer watching the Waxwing or head for Pennington Flash where Willow Tit are "nailed on!". It was a shame to leave the Waxwing but we were quite confident of seeing Willow Tit as we had connected with all our target birds so far. At Pennington Flash we headed straight for the Bunting Hide. A few Reed Buntings and Tits but none of the Willow variety. As the light failed, a Water Rail showed well but unfortunately Willow Tit did not. Time to head south now and we were relieved that the earlier traffic problems on the motorways had now cleared.
O.k. so you made it this far down the post you deserve some cr*ppy pics! No wonder Twitter is so popular these days @sh4rpy.
Pics are; Laughing Gull at New Brighton, Waxwing near Orrell Water Park, Stock Dove and Water Rail Pennington Flash.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Brambling at Fox Covert

An afternoon visit to Fox Covert near Therfield Heath with Paul F. We soon located 15+ Brambling but they were quite flighty due to the amount of people enjoying the afternoon sunshine by, walking their dogs, climbing trees, playing hide and seek and tramping through the middle of the wood with a big lens!

Mixed Fortunes in North Devon

Sat 7th Feb 2015.
A trip to North Devon with Paul F. I met up with Paul at Maple Lodge and we made our way down to Darts Farm near Topsham. Our target bird or birds were the 3 Penduline Tit that had recently been seen here. We waited for 3 hours with only a couple of Chiffchaff to keep us occupied but no sign of the Pendulines. We decided on a change of scenery and headed off to Broadsands. Just as we were leaving a Peregrine put in an appearance quickly followed by an acrobatic pair of Raven. Broadsands is a good site for Cirl Buntings and we were also told we might connect with both Slav and Black-necked Grebe here too. We parked in the "pay and display" car park and wandered over to the corner of the lower car park. A nice male Cirl Bunting gave good views on top of some brambles. We couldn't manage any better views due to strong winds and dog walkers. Next a brief sea-watch. We managed to find a distant grebe but impossible to i.d. due to distance and heavy seas. Over to Brixham Harbour where we thought we might find some Divers sheltering in the harbour. Nothing doing in respect of Divers so we decided to head back to Darts Farm. Paul was putting his optics back in the car but I decided to have one last scan of the Harbour. Still no Divers but a stroke of luck when a couple of birders asked had I found any Divers? I said I hadn't and they said what about the Glaucous Gull? I wasn't aware of any Glaucous Gull but the other birders said they seen photo's of the Gull on the Harbour Masters Office roof. I focussed my scope on the office roof and the first bird I saw was the Glaucous Gull! I rushed over to tell Paul and both he and the other two birders viewed the Glaucous through my scope (no not all at the same time, they took it in turns). We walked down to the Harbour Masters office and were lucky to get some nice views of the Glaucous Gull. We took a few pics and then headed back to Darts Farm. It was getting late and no sign of the Pendulines so we headed for home. In conversation at Darts Farm most birders agreed that the Pendulines must have found a more favourable site nearby. This proved correct when they were re-located at Exminster Marshes RSPB this morning.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

No duck luck at Bray but direct hits in Essex

Sat 31st Jan 2015

A days birding with Paul F. Our original plan was to stay fairly local and start off at Staines Res and moor. Then maybe over to Bray gravel Pits. I met Paul at Maple Lodge and as it was sleeting quite heavily we decided Staines Res would be a bit too exposed. So we headed off to Bray Gravel Pits near Windsor Racecourse. Here we were hoping to see the drake Ring-necked Duck that had been seen there recently. Paul had seen this duck during the week so fair play to him for going back again. We spent some time going through the Tufties and Pochard but could not find the Ring-necked Duck. As we were having one look through the ducks Paul had a look on RBA to see if anything interesting had been reported. The 2 Serin that were seen in Gunners Park, Essex had been reported again, so after a brief discussion we headed over to sunny Essex. We arrived at Gunners Park about 11:45 and none of the birders we spoke to had seen the Serin. We wandered over to the sea wall. On route there were 4 Little Grebe on one of the pools. On the beach were; Sanderling, Turnstone and Redshank. Walking back to the car Paul checked RBA again and saw that the Serin had been reported at 12:15. The time now was 12:25! We informed a couple of other birders and did our best "twitchy walks" back towards the car park. We joined the other birders and soon connected with a Serin and as we were enjoying good views of this bird another Serin flew in. The birds seemed to be doing a bit of a circuit of the scrub that surrounds the car and occasionally appeared to visit the gardens of nearby houses. From Gunners Park we stopped off briefly along Southend seafront. We knew the pier has Mediterranean Gulls but were hoping we might find one on the beach. Once we had found somewhere to park we were pleasantly surprised to find a Med Gull perched on a groyne.
All the pics on this page are Paul's.