Tuesday, January 16, 2018

📖 2018/Update #5 ~ Rutland & Eyebrook

🌤 💨🌬 3C Tuesday 16th January 2018 ~ A pretty challenging days birding in a stiff and bitterly cold north-westerly breeze, meeting up with Geoff Hood from the Brandon Marsh team for a planned visit to Eyebrook and Rutland Water. Our first stop Eyebrook and by the time we parked up for a look across the reservoir a count of twelve Red Kites had been recorded, with one group of six birds along the A6003 near Rockingham.

Record Image of two Drake Smew at Eyebrook.
In choppy conditions, it wasn't long before a couple of Drake Smew were located. These along with a selection of wildfowl which included a pair of Pintail and good numbers of Tufted Duck, Wigeon and Teal. Double figure Dunlin and circa100 Golden Plover were sent up by yet another passing Red Kite. Buzzard,Kestrel and a male Stonechat also noted from one of the viewing screens. In the fields opposite the reservoir three BrownHares enjoying the sunshine.

Well protected from the elements record shot of Little Owl 
Before heading on to Rutland Water a check of a well-known oak tree, which yielded one of the two Little Owls which reside here.

Our first stop at Rutland Water was the North-Arm and after finding a good spot to shield ourselves from the elements we spent a good 45-minutes scanning. No sign at this point of the hoped-for Black-necked Grebe but a single Scaup, drake Goosander, (2) Barnacle Geese, (2) Egyptian Geese and many Great Crested Grebes.

First of two Great Northern Divers ~ This one from the fisherman's car park
We did thankfully locate the Black-necked Grebe while stopping at the fisherman's car park a short while later out towards the far bank and while here the first of two Great Northern Divers for the day. Two more stops, firstly at the 'Old Hall', where we eventually picked out the Red-necked Grebe despite the increasing swell and then on to the far end of Hambleton peninsula for our second Great Northern Diver of the day!

Great Norther Diver ~ Far end of Hambleton peninsula 
Finally, another stop off back at Eyebrook on route home produced a single Ruff, (4) Redshank, (15) DunlinLittle Egret, (6) Red-legged Partridge and a Muntjac Deer!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

📖 2018/Update #4 ~ RSPB Burton Mere

🌤 5C Sunday 14th January 2018 ~ Stopping over in Liverpool last night gave Dee and I the perfect opportunity to visit a couple of birding sites on Sunday before making our way back to the Midlands!

Purple Sandpiper ~ Usually asleep, mingled in with Dunlin, Redshank & Turnstones!
After breakfast, we took the short journey across the River Mersey, via the Mersey Tunnel to visit New Brighton Marina. In March 2015 a rare vagrant Laughing Gull resided here for several weeks and when 'twitching' the bird back then I'd noticed a healthy population of Purple Sandpipers were also regularly roosting on the pontoons. Since then, when visiting Liverpool to see relatives I sometimes take the opportunity for a visit, particularly for my annual year-tick! Try to visit in the week though as today, particularly with the sun shining, there were many dog walkers, cyclists & joggers!

Oystercatcher ~ New Brighton 
Before moving on to RSPB Burton Mere a check of the sea and surrounding beach areas, recording many Oystercatcher, Redshank & Turnstones.

PDF of RSPB Burton Mere ~ Download HERE
The gateway to the Dee Estuary reserve, Burton Mere Wetlands straddles the border between England and Wales with a mosaic of freshwater wetland habitats, mixed farmland and woodland. My last visit here was also back in 2015, in fact on the same day as 'twitching' the Laughing Gull. I'd made my way over for a second 'twitch' of the day, this time a Long-eared Owl, but sadly none were on site today.

Black-tailed Godwits from the Marsh Covert Hide
There's plenty to explore while here, including a couple of screens and both the Marsh Covert Hide and Inner Marsh Farm Hide offer close views of Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew and the usual winter wildfowl. However, the most productive area during our visit was Burton Point headland with unrivalled views across the estuary. From here, although distant, a couple of Great Egrets, Whooper Swans and single Marsh Harrier. Some huge flocks of mixed Golden Plover/Lapwing and many geese also straddle the area but unfortunately, due to the distance, it was difficult to pick out any Pink-footed among them! Stonechat, Redwing, Fieldfare & Green Woodpecker brought up a respectable 50 species for the day, now 100 for the year thus far!

Monday, January 08, 2018

📖 2018/Update #3 ~ Charlecote

☁️ 3C Monday 8th January 2018 ~ A dull, murky and drizzly morning spent at Charlecote near Stratford upon Avon for my annual look at this small population of Corn Buntings.

Corn Bunting at Charlecote ~ This one from last years visit!
I'm always amazed when I visit this site at the sheer amount of birds on view! It just goes to show how the thoughtful planning of set-aside areas and planting of various crops can yield such amazing results. Something as simple as leaving seed heads on a variety of mixed crops and plants to provide feeding stations for the winter birds was something I was frustratingly prevented from doing at Brandon Marsh!

Reed Bunting along the Hawthorn
Just walking along the track for a short distance yielded large numbers of Yellowhammer and Linnet, constantly on the move. Five Song Thrush, a half dozen Skylarks along the ground and the hawthorn skirting the tracks edge providing shelter for double-figure Reed Buntings. Also of note (4) Bullfinch, (20+) Stock Dove, (4) Wren and a dozen Blackbirds! As for the Corn Buntings? Five noted today but unfortunately staying close to the trees in the adjacent field.

One of many Fieldfare!
Finally, a look at the ploughed fields on the opposite side of the main road, which were simply awash with Fieldfare, Redwing, Chaffinch and at least (9) Golden Plover mixed in with the Lapwing flock!

Sunday, January 07, 2018

📖 2018/Update #2 ~ Brandon Marsh

❄️ ☀️ 1C Sunday 7th January 2018 ~ A couple of visits to Brandon Marsh thus far this year, Thursday 4th meeting up with the conservation team in the nature centre for a catch up and tea, before heading off out onto the reserve. With the paths flooded and the hides empty I decided to head across to the phase three area to check out the ongoing works, managing to inadvertently flush a Jack Snipe feeding near one of the pools!

Shelduck ~ Teal Pool
Today (Sunday) a crisp, frosty morning visit, the flooding receding sufficiently for a walk down to East Marsh Hide, via Horsetail Glade. On route, a Grey Wagtail overhead, plus a small flock of Siskin feeding in the alder, Treecreeper, (4) Lesser Redpoll and a single Great Spotted Woodpecker before reaching the hides. Most of the activity was on the flooded River/Teal Pool and here, along with (22) Teal, a Shelduck and drake Pochard.

Willow Tit
Just prior to reaching the Carlton Hide I was alerted, via the calls, to a Willow Tit feeding frantically near the bench. Even better, when I was chatting with John Walton at the screen area overlooking Newlands a Merlin shot through low over the reedbed. From Ted Jury Hide I could only manage a male Stonechat, more often a pair reported here currently and also during my visit a Woodcock, this while checking out the conservation areas and sluices with Adrian Johnson from the conservation team! Also of note, circa (80) Wigeon dropping on to East Marsh Pool mid-morning and a Great White Egret, unfortunately, the latter shortly after I'd left!!

Monday, January 01, 2018

📖 2018/Update #1 ~ RSPB Freiston Shore

🎆 ☔️ ⛅6C Monday 1st January 2018 ~ This year's birding exploits began with a visit to RSPB Freiston Shore on New Years Day! We arrived just after noon, just as a passing rain belt began to deliver and so made our way to the only hide on site, which overlooks the large lagoon.

PDF of Freston Shore ~ Download HERE
Of course, it wasn' long before the new year list hit double figures with lots of wildfowl on offer, which included an excellent count of (37) Pintail on the islands. With low tide, waders were in smaller numbers but by the time we'd moved on to, what I call the bus shelter, which overlooks the saltmarsh, we'd managed various counts of Curlew, LapwingBlack-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Snipe, Ruff, Little Egret and 1000's of Golden Plover. Unfortunately, the saltmarsh offered little in the way of raptors but huge numbers of Brent Geese, Wigeon and to a lesser degree Shelduck were all noted.

Stonechat ~ Freiston Shore
By the time we'd completed a full circuit of the lagoon, with Meadow Pipit, Mistle Thrush and Stonechat all additions to the list, the sun had arrived. We spent the remainder of our stay in lovely winter sunshine walking the concrete road as far as, what is referred to as the North Sea Camp Land! I'm guessing this term refers back to the fact that years ago Freiston was a major holiday destination with two hotels and a racecourse.

Snow Bunting ~ Thanks to Dee for the record shot!
This trail has an observation screen which overlooks the banks and reservoir and here the discovery of a half dozen Snow Buntings on one of the islands. However, a bonus was a single bird within the group, a Twite, which didn't stay long but thankfully provided a nice early year-tick! A few more additions both here and on the walk back included Turnstone, Grey Plover, Linnet, Reed Bunting and Kestrel. With the light fading, we made our way back to the car with a creditable 56 species on the list. Thanks to Dee on route back to the cottage a Barn Owl ensured we ended the day with a further addition to the day list!

Another of Dee's Snow Bunting pics!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

📖 Diary Update #78 ~ 2017 IN REVIEW

❄️ ⛄️ ⛅9C Sunday 31st December 2017 ~ To draw a line under this year's wildlife travels Dee and I spent an enjoyable afternoon at Donna Nook in Lincolnshire. What a lovely way to end the year spending it in the company of several Grey Seal pups, followed by a long winters coastal walk!

Grey Seal Pup ~ Donna Nook
Once again its been a year of travels that have produced some wonderful memories, which I'm glad to say have been recorded both here on my blog and my accompanying Flickr site! My visits to Spain during 2017 were probably my best on record, producing some incredible moments. These included another visit to Tarifa to witness the wonderful raptor migration across the Straits of Gibraltar and stumbling across over fifty Ring Ouzels feeding on a 'berry oasis' high up in the sierra de Loja!

Spain 2017 ~ Ring Ouzels in the Sierra de Loja...

Short-toed Snake Eagle over Tarifa
Other than visits to Spain and France we once again crossed the Atlantic, with trips to both Canada and Alaska! Alaska, as you would imagine, was simply stunning, the scenery breathtaking and our wildlife experiences incredible. We spent our time exploring the city of Anchorage, where Pacific Loons can be found on many of the local lagoons. Driving south to Homer Spit, on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula and trekking around the many wilderness areas!

Brown Bear in Alaska ~ You never know whats around the corner!!
The Incredible Linx ~ Alaska 2017
Canada, of course, is always on our radar and once again our time around the Vancouver area, catching up with friends and visiting some of the many birding locations was well spent.

My Dartford Warbler find at Bubbenhall Meadows
Finally, not forgetting the local patch and this year I would have to say has been one of the best on record for me during the ten years or so of living in Warwickshire. Personal highlights included seeing several of the unprecedented influx of Hawfinch to the area, a brief encounter with a Sabines Gull at Napton Reservoir and of course personally finding a Dartford Warbler at Bubenall Meadows in November! Other notables locally included: Bearded Tit, Grey Phalarope and Razorbill at Draycote Water, the latter a first for Warwickshire!

Bearded Tit at Napton Reservoir

Still shot of my Sabine Gull at Napton Reservoir!

Finally, amid all my wonderful memories I sadly said goodbye to my brilliant mum in June of this year! At almost 97 she was always there for me and an inspiration...

Winifred Yates 
1920 ~ 2017

Friday, December 29, 2017

📖 Diary Update #77 ~ RSPB Frampton

❄️ ⛄️ ⛅1C Friday 29th December 2017 ~ My final few blog entries of the year come from our usual New Years base in Lincolnshire. With the weather set to clear for the afternoon, Dee and I took the 40-minute drive across to RSPB Frampton Marsh, one of our favourite reserves. Our timing could not have been more perfect, with the heavy rain clearing as we arrived at the car park to produce a beautiful, if not bitterly cold, afternoon.

This, in my opinion, is one of the best-managed sites in the UK and never fails to produce, particularly if you're simply looking for some good winter birding with Wildfowl, Waders and Raptors all on offer. What was even more encouraging to me was the fact that I actually made it all the way around the Wash Trail, this, in fact, my longest walk since damaging my back several weeks ago.

Stonechat ~ This colourful male near the Visitor Centre
Along the sea bank, we paused a number of times to check out the salt marshes and here a Merlin perched up and some distant views of a male Hen Harrier were the highlights. Looking back across the reserve a few Little Egret and several large flocks of Golden Plover, Wigeon and Brent Geese, occasionally thrown up into disarray by a marauding Peregrine, which we located several times.

A small group of Ringed Plover, accompanied by a single Turnstone, second from the left!
A short spell in the 360-hide to enjoy some turkey and cranberry sandwiches offered an opportunity to check out the waders which included, in addition to the above, Ruff, RedshankBlack-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover (2), Curlew and Lapwing.

Only three Black-tailed Godwits noted during our stay!
Back at the centre after a hot drink, we hung around until dusk in the hope of Barn Owl, which sadly didn't materialise. Although additions to the day list while here included Barnacle Goose (2), Stoat, Goldeneye pair,  plus House Sparrows, single Tree Sparrow and Goldfinch around the feeders.

Friday, December 08, 2017

📖 Diary Update #76 ~ Continued Recovery!

❄️ ⛄️ ⛅1C Friday 8th December 2017 ~ Over the past few weeks I've continued my recovery but like all injuries, it seems like two steps forward and one step back! That said, I've managed a few short trips out which have included visits to Brandon Marsh, Napton Reservoir and today's brief visit to Draycote Water, after which I headed off once more for an hour at Brandon Marsh.

Hawfinch ~ A very confiding bird at Draycote Water today!

My day started at Draycote Water with the sole intention of connecting with a Hawfinch seen in the Country Park, which Richard Mays had recently discovered. On arrival, I immediately bumped into Bob Hazell who thankfully guided me to the correct location. After a brief catchup, Bob headed off to check out the reservoir and left me waiting in anticipation. Actually, I was only there for 10-minutes before my target bird flew into the treetops. I've been lucky enough to see several of this year's Hawfinch influx but a photographic opportunity had thus far eluded me. Thankfully this particular bird was much more confiding and gave several reasonably good views!

 During a recent visit to Napton Reservoir showing in much larger numbers now!
Job done I headed off to Brandon and made my way straight down to the East Marsh Hide. Best on offer while there was (4) Snipe, (5) Goldeneye 3 drake and (5) Goosander 2 drake, although the latter may have been seven, with more birds (possibly moving across) onto Grebe Pool?

Young Muntjac Deer ~ Brandon Marsh
Worth adding is the above photograph of a baby Muntjac Deer which I managed to take on my Canon SX50 from the Carlton Hide on Sunday 3rd. In contrast to all other species of deer in Britain, Muntjac Deer do not have a defined breeding season (rut). Instead, they breed all year round!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

📖 Diary Update #75 ~ Brandon Marsh

4C Wednesday 29th November 2017 ~ As hoped for I finally managed to fit in a short visit to Brandon Marsh today. Thankfully, one of the advantages of working with the conservation team is the option to park on the reserve in the lower car park, so with the current situation, less strain on the back and legs.

Lesser Redpoll ~ Brandon Marsh
I spent an enjoyable 90-minutes or so in the East Marsh Hide, despite a biting north-easterly wind blowing directly through the flaps! As I walked gingerly along the central marsh track heading for the hide a small flock of (22) Golden Plover flew through, unfortunately not dropping down but continuing on towards the direction of the airport. Another small flock, this time mixed Siskin/Redpoll, were busy feeding in the alder and along the ground on the windfall.

A very obliging Snipe in front of East Marsh Hide!
From the hide a count of (11) Snipe, including one bird directly in front of the hide, Goldeneye (pair), single drake Pochard and (45) Wigeon. Also of note were several Fieldfare, Redwing and a Water Rail, the latter heard only but it was a real pleasure to be out in the open once more!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

📖 Diary Update #74 ~ Thank You!

4C Tuesday 28th November 2017 ~ Thank you to several of my blog buddies for your emails and messages regarding the lack of updates 😉 I can tell you that for a little over two weeks, I've unfortunately been laid up on board the boat suffering once again from some severe back issues! This particular episode was brought on while chainsawing with the Brandon Marsh team a few Thursdays back. Having now received advice from both my GP and a specialist it would seem that sadly my chainsawing days are at an end!

However, I'm happy to report that finally, I can comfortably get back behind the wheel and that over the past few days I've managed to venture out around the local area. On Sunday Dee and I drove into Daventry for a coffee and on route home, at dusk, it was wonderful to see the unmistakable silhouette of two Woodcocks, as they flew across the A425 and onto the Shuckburgh estate! Today an hour at Napton Churchyard and although pretty quiet, the best a couple of Brambling along the footpath, it was just fantastic to be out and about once more. So hopefully as things begin to improve I'll be venturing into our wonderful countryside, seeking out the wildlife and reporting back to my reader before you know it!