Monday, 27 April 2015

A Day of Two Halves

Sat 25th April 2015.
A trip to North Wales with Paul and Dave. Paul arrived at my place 02:50, yes that's right ten to three! We picked Dave up 10 minutes later and headed off to World's End, North Wales. The aim of our trip was to see Black Grouse lekking. An reasonable journey with little traffic but lots of cones and a couple of minor diversions. Our first stop was fairly close to World's End. A quick look at a small fast running stream Dipper and Grey Wagtail kicked off our days birding. Another stop about half a mile up the road and a pair of displaying Dipper were seen. We didn't hang around for too long as we were keen to see some Black Grouse. We stopped in the first layby but although we could hear Black Grouse none could be seen. At the second layby, again we could hear Black Grouse but this time we could see a few Black Grouse on the hillside. We stayed in the car and on scanning the hillside we counted 29 Black Grouse lekking. An impressive sight and sound. We spent a good while admiring the Black Grouse and then all of a sudden they all took flight which was an impressive sight in itself.. Further along the moor a male Whinchat was singing but we could only find a female and a Grasshopper Warbler reeled brifly. Then at the other end of the moor a Red Grouse provided some nice flight views. We were discussing where we might go to see Pied Flycatcher, Redstart etc when Dave's pager which was on silent! started making a strange bleeping. On investigation it was a "mega alert". A Hudsonian Godwit in Somerset! A quick team meeting and all agreed to leave Wales and head down to the Somerset Levels. Ham Wall car park in the sat-nav and off we rushed. About three and a half hours later we arrived at the new and lucky for us and hundreds of other birders rather large car park. Lots of smiling faces leaving were a good sign. We joined a long line of a couple of hundred birders and soon connected with the Hudsonian Godwit. To begin with the "Hudwit" was sleeping and only occasionally lifting it's head for a quick preen. Some of the Black-tailed Godwits the Hudsonian was associating with gave it an occasional prod which made it re-locate to another part of the flock. In so doing it gave some better views of underwing etc. Whilst admiring the "Hudwit" there were plenty of other birds to  be seen including; Common Crane, Hobby, Swift, Great White Egret, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper. Time to leave now but not before a nice Wood Warbler entertained us near the car park. Some pics below. You can click on the photo's for larger versions but I wouldn't recommend it!

Monday, 20 April 2015


Sun 19th April 2015
A days birding with Paul F. First stop was in the Brecks where we were hoping to see Stone Curlew. No luck to begin with just a few Wheatear. A slight change of location and at first one, then two and then six Stone Curlew showed well. Norfolk next and our first stop was Chalk Pit lane Choseley. No Dotterel here but a flock of 40 mainly summer plumage Golden Plover and a couple of Grey Partridge. We bumped into a couple of birders who we had last seen looking for Dotterel on North Uist, small world! At the barns themselves not too much going on here just a few Yellowhammer. About half a mile from the barns we stopped at a sharp bend in the road and viewed a ploughed field. 5 Wheatear and a Corn Bunting were feeding here. Ignoring the lure of nearby Titchwell we headed over to Kelling. At Kelling we joined a few other birders and had slightly frustrating views of a female Dotterel. Light, distance, camouflage made photo's impossible (for me anyway!). The nearby pool had a few species of interest; Swallow, Sand Martin, Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail. A quick walk to view the sea and a pair of Stonechat were seen. Distantly from the shingle bank 5 Gannet. Cley was next where we parked in the beach car park. A few Wheatear in the fields and big flock of Linnet on our walk to the hide. From the hide nothing out of the ordinary, Pintail, Avocet's, Redshank etc. On our walk back to the car 2 Ringed Plover on the pool near the pill box. Time to head in the direction of home but with a stop off at Lakenheath. A decent enough stop it was too. We made our way to the Joist Fen viewpoint, on route a Bittern boomed a couple of times and a few Cetti's burst in to song. At the view point more Cetti's singing and a few Marsh Harriers also a Barn Owl which are always nice to see put in appearance. Then more by luck than judgement I found a Crane, very distant but showing reasonably well through my scope.
Getting late now so time to head back to the car. The Barn Owl showed well again and a Grasshopper Warbler started reeling but did not show itself. Then after 5 Little Egret had flown past. A Great White Egret flew from the river to the edge of the pool. Time now about 8 o'clock so time to head home.

Black Terns at Marsworth/Startops

Friday 17th April 2015
Birdguides had a report of 2 Black Tern at Marsworth Reservoir near Tring but no other information. I waited until lunchtime for further information but nothing doing so I headed over anyway. On arrival I soon connected with 3 Black Tern. The Black Terns were favouring the centre of the reservoir and often resting on the bunds.

Woodoaks Farm

Weds 15th April 2015
I was planning to look for Corn Bunting at West Hyde but major road works to the entrance of the new gravel workings meant no room to park. Woodoaks Farm is just along the road so I decided to pay it a visit. As I walked along the entrance road I noticed 2 "big lens" boys at the dung heap. My first thoughts were that they might have a Wheatear. I kept checking the dung heap but I couldn't see anything on it. As I got closer I recognised the "big lens" boys as cam/wheelbarrow Geoff and Dale A. They seemed to be looking at something near the dung heap but on the ground. On closer inspection I could see a nice bright Yellow Wagtail. I could also see walking towards the dung heap from the opposite direction a lady dog walker. I walked quickly to join Geoff and Dale beating the dog walker by a considerable margin! However, bad luck with the Yellow Wagtail as it had flown shortly after I had seen it. I bit of a chat with the lads and then over to the Old Orchard to look for Little Owl. One Little Owl was in it's old usual tree and then as I was leaving another appeared and then flew towards the farm buildings.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Amwell then Cliffe Pools

Yesterday as I was wasting my time watching a blue plastic dustbin in Lidlington, a Bluethroat was found at Amwell. I did consider leaving the Lady A site and going to Amwell but my feet had taken root and my negative frame of mind convinced me that the Lady A would appear shortly after I had left and the Bluethroat would decamp shortly before I arrived at Amwell. As it turned out I was wrong on both counts. However, I did make the journey to Amwell early this morning in company of Samuel and Ephraim P. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours at Amwell despite there being no sign of the Bluethroat. Cetti's calling frequently, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Snipe, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Common Tern, Sedge Warbler (my first of 2015) and best of all 2 great looking Black-necked Grebe.
We were all hungry for some more birding so we held a team meeting. Ephraim suggested trying for Black-winged Stilt at Higham Marshes/bight in Kent. No objections from me or big bruv. We tried to get site location from the web on our phones. It seemed that the birds location was very near to Cliffe Pools so we decided to head there then ask for directions to the Alpha Pool. A decent run over to Cliffe Pools and on arrival we asked a couple of birders if they knew where the Alpha Pool was. We followed what turned out to be the wrong directions but this worked in our favour as we encountered some decent birds on our walk; Nightingale (6+ singing), Whitethroat (my first of 2015), Blackcap, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Cetti's Warbler, Wheatear, Ruff. After following some more dodgy directions and encountering several more singing Nightingale and a Corn Bunting, Ephraim decided he knew how to get to the Stilt's location. As we had been given two sets of dodgy directions then one more wouldn't matter would it? After a bit of a hike and through a working gravel pit we eventually reached the raised bank to view some pools. We didn't connect immediately but after some searching 4 Black-winged Stilt were located. We were determined to find the fifth reported bird and after some good team work the fifth and then a sixth bird were located. Fairly worn out by our hiking around Cliffe Pools we decided to head for home.
A great days birding! List of the birds (76) and butterflies (6) we encountered below.

1 : Robin
2 : Wren
3 : Gadwall
4 : Dunnock
5 : Reed Bunting
6 : Sedge Warbler
7 : Mallard
8 : Mute Swan
9 : Willow Warbler
10 : Blackcap
11 : Snipe
12 : Redshank
13 : Oystercatcher
14 : Lapwing
15 : Stock Dove
16 : Wood pigeon
17 : Coot
18 : Moorhen
19 : Canada Goose
20 : Greylag Goose
21 : Grey Heron
22 : Cormorant
23 : Kingfisher
24 : Swallow
25 : Little Egret
26 : Tufted Duck
27 : Black-necked Grebe
28 : Shoveler
29 : Teal
30 : Nuthatch
31 : Great=spotted Woodpecker
32 : Jay
33 : Black-headed Gull
34 : Lesser black-backed Gull
35 : Common Tern
36 : Pheasant
37 : Blackbird
38 : Magpie
39 : Carrion Crow
40 : Blue Tit
41 : Great Tit
42 : Chiffchaff
43 : Cetti's warbler
44 : Green Woodpecker
45 : Collared Dove
46 : Sparrowhawk
47 : Kestrel
48 : Buzzard
49 : Starling
50 : Goldfinch
51 : Jackdaw
52 : Pied Wagtail
53 : House Sparrow
54 : Wigeon
55 : Greenfinch
56 : Avocet
57 : Black-tailed Godwit
58 : Nightingale
59 : Wheatear
60 : Common Sandpiper
61 : Dunlin
62 : Skylark
63 : Ruff
64 : Greenshank
65 : Ringed Plover
66 : Meadow Pipit
67 : Black-winged Stilt
68 : Whitethroat
69 : Corn Bunting
70 : Linnet
71 : Herring Gull
72 : Shelduck
73 : Little Grebe
74 : Water Rail
75 : Great Crested Grebe
76 : Long-tailed Tit
1 : Brimstone
2 : Peacock
3 : Small Tortoiseshell
4 : Speckled Wood
5 : Small White
6 : Orange Tip

Lady A Your Such a Tease

A trip to Lidlington, Beds in search of possibly the last Lady Amherst's Pheasant. Plastic, tickable, non tickable, introduced........ The Lady Amherst's Pheasant's story is an interesting one.  and's_pheasant
I haven't been that keen on going as I'm pretty much in the "plastic" camp. With some time on my hands I thought I would give it a couple of hours of my time as Lidlington is only 40 minutes from my house. I arrived at the site just after 11:00 and joined about 16 other birders. Many including Rob for whom this was his fourth attempt had been on site since first light. The Lady Amherst's Pheasant had been calling earlier in the day but no sightings. Birders came and went and some came back again but still no sign. The highest number of birders I counted was 21 and the lowest 7. I waited and waited telling myself I would just stay a little bit longer and of course the hours went by until I decided to stay until the bitter end! About ten to eight and with the light fading the Lady A started calling quite frequently apparently from the woods to the right hand side of the ride. Then a short period of quiet and then at the top of the ride on the ridge but in the left had corner a Pheasant shaped neck and head for a split second then out of sight. Only myself and one other birder got this glimpse and neither of us had enough detail for positive I.d.
Then more calling from the left hand side of the ride. It must of been the Lady A we saw, oh dear! More calling as the bird made it's way left through the pines and one lucky birder had a quick sighting but definitely the Lady. None of the remaining birders including myself managed to connect and now the light was all but gone and the Lady A was no longer calling. Time now twenty past eight so approaching nine and a half hours for nod-nod gone!!!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Sat 11th and Sun 12 April 2015

On Saturday I went of to West Hyde, On arrival a singing Yellowhammer was a decent start. Lots of Skylarks in and around the rape field. A Red Kite drifted over. Then the jangling call of a Corn Bunting singing from the top of a rape plant. Too far for any photo's though. So should I stay local, Stockers, Woodoaks, Withey Beds or even twitch the Lady A in Beds? The previous day there were quite a few Ring Ouzel sightings, so I checked birdguides and 4 at Blows Down, Bedss and 7 at Steps Hill near Ivinghoe Beacon, Beds, A Redstart had also been seen early morning at Blows Down so that's where I headed off to. On arrival at Half Moon Lane the weather was quite poor with strong wind and rain getting heavier. I headed down to the paddocks first but unfortunately couldn't find the Redstart, Then along to the chalk pit where I didn't find any Ring Ouzel. Steps Hill not too far from Blows Down so that's where I decided to go next. Better luck at Steps Hill where I enjoyed some nice scope views of 6 Ring Ouzel (5m and 1f) also a Mistle Thrush. At one point a dog walker walked along the fence line exactly where the Ring Ouzels were feeding. Of course they all flew off. Shall I go and look for them or wait and see if they return? I chose the lazy option and after about 15 minutes one by one they all re-appeared, I had a nice chat with a couple of other birders and that was my birding over for the day,

Sunday 12th April 2015
A late afternoon visit to Wilstone Reservoir, Tring. On arrival quite a few Swallows and Sand Martins could be seen from the steps. I made way towards the new overflow where I bumped into Ian B. A male and female Garganey were nice to see near the Drayton Bank. Ian had found a Common Sandpiper earlier in the day so I asked him if it was still about?  He said that it wasn't where he had seen it earlier but another birder had seen it near the jetty, I decided to walk around to the jetty and Ian was leaving after 5 hour plus stint at "the ressies". We stopped to scan the bunds in the jetty area, no Common Sandpiper but there was a Redshank. Then we located the Common Sandpiper keeping close company with an Oystercatcher at the base of a tree on the bank that runs along the centre of the reservoir. Another scan of the bunds and 2 Common Tern were located. Common Sandpiper and Common Tern were my first of the year. Ian left and I stayed for a while longer. More views of the Common Tern and Common Sandpiper and off home where I caught the closing few minutes of the Manchester Derby,

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Lesser Pecker then a Spot of Falconry at Woodoaks

Yesterday a Lesser spotted woodpecker was reported at Withey Beds LNR near Rickmansworth. I decided to pay an early morning visit to see if I could connect with the lesser pecker. I arrived about ten past seven. A pair of Green Woodpecker were the first birds of note. Then three Snipe flushed from the boardwalk. I did a quick circuit but no sight or sound of Lesser spotted woodpecker, I stood on the boardwalk at a reasonable distance from the tree Tony H and Geof L had seen the lesser pecker visit yesterday. A pair of Great spotted woodpecker visited the tree and a pair of nest building Treecreeper nearby were nice to see. After about an hour I texted Paul to see what he was up to and he joined me at the Withey Beds about half an hour later. Soon after Paul arrived we were stood chatting when much to our delight a Lesser spotted woodpecker flew in to the tree we were staking out. It began drumming and showed well for about ten minutes. Next we decided to head over to Woodoaks Farm to see if we could find Little Owl. Near to the entrance we heard a Water Rail squealing and then Geof L arrived. A quick chat with Geof and off to Woodoaks. At Woodoaks our plans to look for Little Owl were put on hold as Lee a local falconer was getting his Gyr/Saker hybrid from his van. We spent some time watching Lee fly his falcon and managed a few photo's.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Garganey and Red-necked Grebe in Oxon

Good Friday 3rd April 2015
A mid morning visit to Kidlington and then Farmoor. I met Paul F at Maple Lodge and we made our way to Stratfield Brake Sports Ground, Kidlington. Dark and gloomy with light rain but a nice drake Garganey was waiting for us as we arrived at the pool on the edge of the sports ground. This very active Garganey occasionally called and displayed before resting briefly in the reeds at the edge of the pool. It repeated this behaviour a couple of times before we left him to it and headed over to Farmoor in the hope of closer views of the Red-necked Grebe. At Farmoor we did manage to get closer views of the Red-necked Grebe but poor light and fine rain was not ideal for photography.