Sunday, 29 March 2015

Alpine Swift has left the Building

News broke yesterday afternoon of an Alpine Swift in Crawley. Neither myself nor Paul could make it due to some prior commitments. Our original plan was to get up reasonably early and wait for news of the Alpine Swift, however, Paul had obviously been chewing this over and text me to suggest we leave early on sunday morning and take our chances of seeing the bird. I agreed to this on the condition that we spent at least an hour and a half standing outside the wrong Virgin Atlantic building. We met up at Maple Lodge but I was unable to park in the car park as there was a "Dog's Bollocks Motorcycle Club" event still in full swing. So less than an hours drive and we were standing outside the wrong (as it turned out) Virgin Atlantic building. Here we stood for quite some time frantically checking our phones for news and all the time wondering where all the other birders were? LGRE came and went and after a while another birder kindly informed we were at the wrong location! The bird had not been seen so not a problem. A quick discussion and we decided to head over to the Church where the Alpine Swift had been seen on Saturday. I suggested to Paul that just for a laugh we should go to the wrong church! He didn't see the funny side of that suggestion, so we made our way to the correct Church. Unfortunately no sign of the bird here either. The next cunning plan was to go nearest Macdonalds for coffee and maybe the Swift would be reported. At Macdonalds I ordered pancakes and syrup and a cappuccino. Cold, wet and no bird but i was "loving it!". With no news we headed for home m23 and then m25 but on checking the news services the Alpine Swift had been seen leaving it's roost on the Virgin Atlantic building. We were somewhere near Chertsey about 35 minutes away if we were travelling in the right direction. So off at the next junction and back on m25 and then m23. Soon after leaving the m23 we were back on Fleming Way and controversially Paul ignored the wrong Virgin Atlantic building and headed to the right one. Here we joined 20 or so other birders and luckily for us the Alpine Swift was flying and giving good flight views. I went to Paul's van to get my camera but on my return the Alpine Swift had decided to rest on the wall of the building. We all made our way to where the bird was roosting and I took a few poor quality photos. There were quite a few of us birders there and before long a very polite security guard asked us to leave. There was no fuss and he even allowed some newly arrived birders to see the Swift.
We hung around chatting to Rob (nice to see you Rob) @Robsbirding on twitter and one or two others. LGRE ever the entrepreneur began running escorted trips to see the roosting Alpine Swift at £10 per time as long as you don't divulge the roost site to others.
Time to head home now and traffic was much heavier on the m23 and m25 than previously but we didn't care!
Rob's version and some nice pics of the Alpine Swift

Friday, 27 March 2015

Red-necked Grebe at Farmoor

A late morning visit to Farmoor with Paul F. On route along the m40 we counted 24 Red Kite. Unfortunately for us our target bird a returning Red-necked Grebe was right in the centre of reservoir F2. Great-crested and Little Grebes showed much better.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

My first, second and third singing Chiffchaff of 2015

Monday 23rd March 2014.
After failing to see the Green Sandpiper at Scotsbridge Mill yesterday I decided to have another bash this afternoon. Walking alongside the Chess I heard my first singing Chiffchaff of the year. I was here yesterday and did not hear one so must assume a new arrival. Nearer to the cress beds and two more singing Chiffchaff were heard. A scan of the cress beds, 3 Teal but no sign of the Green Sandpiper. Looking from the bridge over the Chess I did catch a glimpse of the Green Sandpiper. I made my way a little closer and did get a better view. Whilst looking at the Green Sandpiper I also noticed a Small Tortoiseshell. On the walk back to the car a Little Egret and a Kestrel.

Sunday, 22 March 2015


A walk around Tyttenhanger in the afternoon sunshine. A total of 44 species.
1 : Kestrel
2 : Moorhen
3 : Blue Tit
4 : Long-tailed Tit
5 : Great Crested Grebe
6 : Robin
7 : Mallard
8 : Blackbird
9 : Lapwing
10 : Cormorant
11 : Coot
12 : Grey Heron
13 : Wigeon
14 : Tufted Duck
15 : Lesser black-backed Gull
16 : Black-headed Gull
17 : Common Gull
18 : Teal
19 : Little Egret
20 : Buzzard
21 : Sparrowhawk
22 : Green Woodpecker
23 : Magpie
24 : Dunnock
25 : Oystercatcher
26 : Wood Pigeon
27 : Goldfinch
28 : Redshank
29 : Carrion Crow
30 : Jackdaw
31 : Reed Bunting
32 : Skylark
33 : Tree Sparrow
34 : Greenfinch
35 : Pied Wagtail
36 : Chaffinch
37 : Gadwall
38 : Great-spotted Woodpecker
39 : Mute Swan
40 : Chiffchaff
41 : Fieldfare
42 : Song Thrush
43 : Red Kite
44 : Wren

GND, BNG, LRP but Dick's Pipit RIP

Sat 21st March 2015
Met up with Paul F at Maple Lodge. Song Thrush singing as I left my house and another at Maple Lodge car park. First stop was Staines Reservoirs. A couple of flyover Ring-necked Parakeets on route. At the res's lots of Shelduck and my first Little-ringed Plover of the year. We stayed for a while had a bit of a chat with some local birders. Quite a sociable lot  the "Staines Massive!". Most noteworthy sighting at Staines were; Black-necked Grebe, Great Northern Diver, Little Ringed Plover, Wheatear, Rock Pipit, Water Pipit, Redshank, Grey Wagtail. From Staines we headed off to Newhaven, East Sussex and the Ouse Estuary Project. Our target bird here was Richard's Pipit. We joined a handful of other birders and it was not too long before someone called the Richard's Pipit sitting on a wire fence. We had some decent scope views before it flew and was lost to view. Then another brief sighting of the bird on the ground before being lost to view once more. We stayed for a while chatting about our next move and luckily for us the Richard's Pipit flew past in front of where we were standing and landed on the bank about 30 yards away. We managed to put some newly arrived birders on the bird before heading off to nearby Newhaven Beach. No real reason for heading to Newhaven Beach but we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of Fulmar there. From Newhaven we headed back towards home. We stopped at West Hyde near Maple Cross to look for Corn Bunting but no luck there. From Maple Lodge Paul headed home for some beer and rugby but I decided to have a look for Green Sandpiper at Scotsbridge Mill. No luck, Little Egret and a pair of  Grey Wagtail the best I could do. On our journey back from East Sussex, Paul Lewis had kindly phoned to say he had found a Little-ringed Plover at Stockers Farm. My last birding of the day was at Stockers Farm where I enjoyed some nice scope views of Paul Lewis's Little-ringed Plover. Some sad news about the Richard's Pipit as Birdguides reported the following; "Richard's Pipit sadly picked off by a Sparrowhawk while in an altercation with a Reed Bunting at Ouse Estuary Project" It would appear this happened about half an hour after we left. Eyewitness account

Monday, 16 March 2015

Jeepers Creepers

Sat14th March 2015
A day trip to Dinant in Belgium with Paul F, Brendan G and Dave J.
An 05:00 meet at my house and we headed off for Folkestone and "le shuttle". We made it to the Dartford Crossing toll booths  just before 06:00, this meant they were still on "free vend". At Folkestone we managed to get an earlier shuttle to Calais. So with our destination of "Dinant near the police station" set in the twat-nav we travelled via several fairly quiet motorways until we reached the picturesque town of Dinant about 12:30 local time. The sat-nav had worked it's magic yet again and found us some free parking outside the Police Station and Palais de Justice. A quick scan of the rock face and Palais de Justice failed to produce the Wallcreeper. Oops did I not mention this overwintering bird was the reason for our visit? We wandered around to the entrance to the Citadel scanning the rock face as we went but no joy. Then we continued our search from the bridge. It was at this point we decided to split into two groups. After a team meeting we decided democratically that Dave and Brendan were the "People's Front" and myself and Paul were the "Popular Front".
After about 15 minutes the two factions were re-untied quite close to where we had parked and then soon after that the "People's Front" team leader Brendan located the Wallcreeper. A moment of blind panic as we tried to get on the bird but sure enough there it was flicking and picking it's way around the rock face. It was at this point 2 other English birders came into view so we shouted as quietly as possible to them that we had the Wallcreeper. We were soon joined by 2 Belgian birders and for the next couple of hours enjoyed some nice scope views of the Wallcreeper. There were closer and better parts of the rock face the Wallcreeper could have chosen but nice views through our scopes despite there being a few obstacles in the way. The Wallcreepers attention was often attracted by a pair of very vocal Kestrels that at one point were mating in the tree above our heads. As is often the case when I'm watching a good bird like this I forget that the hump on my back actually contains a camera. I did take a few photo's but they would be of more use to a geologist than an ornithologist. Still some time left in the day so we decided to head off to a woodland about 8 miles outside of Dinant. We were hoping to see Middle Spotted Woodpecker here, however, after about an hour and a quarter ambling around the wood we were unable to locate any Middle Spotted. We did manage a couple of Great Spotted but a pair of Short-toed Treecreeper of which the male frequently burst into to song was a new bird for both Paul and myself. Also of note in the wood were good numbers of Marsh Tit, Yellowhammer, Nuthatch and nice pair of Bullfinch. Our birding over for the day we headed back to Calais and "Le Shuttle" Our scheduled shuttle was cancelled but we still managed to get back to my house by 11:00 pm. Another good days birding!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Woodoaks and Stockers

Thurs 12th March 2015
An afternoon visit to Woodoaks Farm near Maple Cross. A Mistle Thrush in the goat field and a handful of Yellowhammer were seen as I made my way towards the dung heap. Distantly scanning the dung heap I was pleasantly surprised to see a nice male Wheatear. I walked a bit closer and had some nice views. I sent out a few tweets and texts and quite soon after Paul Lewis arrived. He was on his way to Stockers Lake to look for the recently reported Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. We had a chat and headed off to Stockers. Parking at the pumping station we made our way to the causeway, pausing briefly to view 3 Snipe on the flooded field. We encountered a couple of birders on route one of whom had seen the Lesser Pecker about an hour ago. We found a decent spot to view the oak on the island. I set up my scope to view what I believed to be the birds favoured drumming post. After about an hour and a quarter some sewing machine type drumming started, a quick view in the scope and there it was. Paul thoughtfully ran off to alert two other birders and they were both able to view the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker through my scope.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Gargoyles and Grotesques

A trip to Ely Cathedral with my better half. A wander around the outside of the Cathedral and then an interesting guided tour of the Octagon Tower. Ely Cathedral on wikipedia

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit

A Black-tailed Godwit I saw with Paul F on Saturday had some interesting bling. It was close enough to get some decent photo's so I decided to post some pics on twitter asking for information. Almost straight away Andy Field (@merseabirder on twitter) suggested I ask Jen Gill (@JenGill3 on twitter). I tweeted a message to Jen and received an almost immediate reply. She had ringed the Godwit as a chick in Northern Iceland! Jen then forwarded my email to the ringing scheme and this morning I received the following information about the Godwit.

Ringed as chick
GW-YYflag 13.07.12 Svafadardalur, road 817, Dalvik, Eyjafjordur, N Iceland

GW-YYflag 7.11.13 Montijo, Tagus estuary, W Portugal

GW-YYflag 17.02.14 Giganta ricefields,Porto Alto, Lisboa, W Portugal

GW-YYflag 29.07.14 Fishtail Lagoon, Lymington Keyhaven, NW Solent Hampshire, S England

GW-YYflag 1.08.14 Fishtail Lagoon, Keyhaven, Hampshire, S England

GW-YYflag 5.08.14 Fishtail Lagoon, Lymington Keyhaven, NW Solent Hampshire, S England

GW-YYflag 5.08.14 Fishtail Lagoon, Lymington Keyhaven, NW Solent Hampshire, S England

GW-YYflag 21.08.14 Fishtail Lagoon, Lymington Keyhaven, NW Solent Hampshire, S England

GW-YYflag 15.09.14 Fishtail Lagoon, Keyhaven, Hampshire, S England

GW-YYflag 26.09.14 Fishtail Lagoon, Keyhaven, Hampshire, S England

GW-YYflag 28.09.14 Keyhaven marshes, Keyhaven, Hampshire, S England

GW-YYflag 3.10.14 Pennington Marshes, Lymington, Hampshire, S England

GW-YYflag 26.12.14 Normandy , Lymington, Keyhaven, Hampshire, S England

GW-YYflag 7.03.15 Pennington Marshes, Lymington, Hampshire, S England

H is for Hawk

Sat 7th March 2015

A trip the New Forest with Paul F. Friday evenings pre trip plan was given the favourable weather forecast we would head for the New Forest in search of Goshawk. We decided to visit the  Beaulieu Road Station area first hoping to see Dartford Warbler. We parked in the Shatterford car park and headed off on a clockwise route towards the railway bridge. The first noteworthy bird was a calling Curlew in flight. Unfortunately for us the weather was not quite as we had expected with a strong cold wind. Not ideal for Dartford's we thought. We paused just past the railway bridge to scan the gorse and heather, luckily for us we heard a Dartford Warbler calling and then it showed reasonably well for such an elusive bird. We walked on slowly and encountered a minimum of 2 more Dartfords. A few years back when I had not encountered a Dartford Warbler before, I read somewhere that they often tag along with Stonechat and this was the case with the birds we saw today. So onwards towards a more wooded area and I was pleased to catch up with my first Treecreeper of 2015. 4 Mistle Thrush perched in the same small bush were also seen in this area. Next a Peregrine made a brief appearance, probably a male judging by it's size. c10 Redwing were noted at Denny Wood. On the final leg of our walk back to the car park we stopped to chat to a couple off Hants birders. They said that there were Ruff and Spoonbill at Keyhaven/Pennington so given the weather we decided to go there rather than Acre's Down. We were keeping a "day list" as usual and Keyhaven/Pennington always holds a good selection of birds. Parking in Lower Pennington Lane we headed off towards Fishtail Lagoon as we got closer to the lagoon a quick scan and a nice if a bit distant Ruff was found. Then along the sea wall and better views of a couple more Ruff and then distant views of 5 sleeping Spoonbill. We walked along the sea wall to get better views of the Spoonbill and did manage to get a glimpse of the "Spoon Bill" as they had a quick preen. A Rock Pipit in display flight was nice to see here too. On Keyhaven Lagoon were 8 Black-tailed Godwit and another Ruff. The wind had now dropped but although it was still quite cloudy we decided to try for Goshawk at Acre's Down. We walked along the sea wall to the footpath that leads back to the car park from the Jetty. A pair of Red-breasted Merganser were added to our "day list" here. On our walk back to the car park another Ruff on the flooded field  and finally not too far from the car park a Black-tailed Godwit wearing plenty of "bling". More about this Godwit in my next post!
Off to Acre's Down and the weather again not quite what we had hoped for so on route to the raptor watchpoint we decided to have a look for Woodlark. A pair "on territory" didn't take too long to find so we headed over to the watchpoint. At the watchpoint a pair of Kestrel and 6 Buzzard gave us some encouragement given the wind and poor visibility, We didn't have too long to wait before a "Sparrowhawk on steroids" came in to view, Goshawk! It showed reasonably well before dropping like a stone and disappearing low into the trees. We stayed a bit longer but no more Goss, had a chat with some other birders and then headed for home.
A couple of pics below and then our "day list"

1 : Cormorant
2 : Ring-necked Parakeet
3 : Black-headed Gull
4 : Wood Pigeon
5 : Magpie
6 : Carrion Crow
7 : Rook
8 : Buzzard
9 : Mallard
10 : Mute Swan
11 : Starling
12 : Blackbird
13 : Robin
14 : Jackdaw
15 : Great Tit
16 : Greenfinch
17 : Chaffinch
18 : Goldfinch
19 : Mistle Thrush
20 : Curlew
21 : Dartford Warbler
22 : Stonechat
23 : Meadow Pipit
24 : Great-spotted Woodpecker
25 : Pheasant
26 : Skylark
27 : Wren
28 : Treecreeper
29 : Blue Tit
30 : Siskin
31 : Dunnock
32 : Coal Tit
33 : Peregrine
34 : Grey Heron
35 : Lapwing
36 : Jay
37 : Redwing
38 : Song Thrush
39 : Pied Wagtail
40 : Little Egret
41 : Coot
42 : Herring Gull
43 : Brent Goose
44 : Lesser black-backed Gull
45 : Tufted Duck
46 : Oystercatcher
47 : Great black-backed Gull
48 : Shoveler
49 : Wigeon
50 : Teal
51 : Pintail
52 : Kestrel
53 : Shelduck
54 : Golden Plover
55 : Moorhen
56 : Redshank
57 : Ruff
58 : Canada Goose
59 : Little Grebe
60 : Spoonbill
61 : Grey Plover
62 : Turnstone
63 : Dunlin
64 : Rock Pipit
65 : Black-tailed Godwit
66 : Great Crested Grebe
67 : Red-breasted Merganser
68 : Gadwall
69 : Collared Dove
70 : Woodlark
71 : Goshawk
72 : House Sparrow
73 : Greylag Goose
74 : Nuthatch
75: Reed Bunting
76: Long-tailed Tit

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Staines Res

A long overdue visit to Staines Reservoirs near Heathrow Airport. I met up with Paul at Maple Lodge and we made our around the m25 towards Heathrow. Arriving at the reservoirs before 8am. A couple of regulars were already on site. A Caspian Gull had been seen yesterday (Saturday) so we enquired if it was still around. Unfortunately it had not been seen but by way of consolation there was an adult Yellow-legged Gull. Also on the slowly draining North Basin both Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe were seen distantly. A quick look into the sun on the South Basin and we immediately connected with the Great Northern Diver. A couple of hundred yards along the causeway and we had nice views of the drake Scaup. Other noteworthy birds seen on our shortish visit; Redshank, Shelduck, Common Gull, Great black-backed Gull, Goldeneye.