Wednesday, March 14, 2018

📖 #18 ~ Draycote & Brandon

🌤8C Wednesday 14th March 2018 ~ After dipping the Red-throated Diver yesterday I couldn't have timed my arrival better at Draycote Water this morning as Richard Mays and Dave Cox had just sent out the word of a summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe!

Black-necked Grebe just off the sailing club!
Having had a call from Theo de Clermont I hung around at Farborough Bank until Theo arrived a few minutes later and we both headed off down to the sailing club, where Richard and Dave had said it had gone. We were there within five minutes and straight onto the bird, which was not only in full summer plumage but was also calling constantly, which was a real treat!

Gorgeous Black-necked Grebe & calling!
After enjoying the bird for a while I headed off to Brandon Marsh, bumping into several of the Brandon volunteers, who were, fortunately, visiting Draycote on an RSPB Coventry local branch outing. Yesterdays Swallow was still around Farborough Bank but I didn't stop at the play area for the long staying Hawfinch.

Red Kite drifting over East Marsh Pool!
Brandon Marsh has returned to some normality after the flooding, although we need to release the water on East Marsh pool desperately. By the way, if anyone is visiting tomorrow (Thursday 15th) we will be preparing the Sand Martin structure & any islands that aren't underwater for the forthcoming breeding season. I'll post my sightings for today on the Brandon Birding Site but the hightlights during my visit included Red Kite and my 1st Sand Martins of the year, with two over East Marsh Pool!

BUBO Listing
Year-List 2018

Monday, March 12, 2018

📖 #17 ~ SNOWY OWL

SNOWY OWL ~ Never did I imagine in my wildest dreams that I'd get this close to one of these stunningly beautiful birds on home soil!

In fact initially, Dee and I didn't intend to visit RSPB Snettisham on Sunday after the bird had been relocated. I'd spent all of Saturday morning chasing around for this UK life tick and after all, this was meant to a be a leisurely weekend with the wife birding in Norfolk.

However, I'm glad to say that my wife knows me well and after seeing images on social media she knew I would have regretted missing out on this amazing spectacle and insisted we went! I didn't need much persuading and as it turned out, in the end, it was me who had to drag her away from this fabulous 1st winter female!

BUBO Listing
Year-List 2018

Sunday, March 11, 2018

📖 #16 ~ Norfolk Weekend 2/2

🌤🌧10C Sunday 11th March 2018 ~ After yesterdays mad dash a more sedate start to the day at RSPB Titchwell Marsh. With no sign of the Snowy Owl here we parked at the reserve with impunity at around 9:30am. A Chiffchaff singing in the carpark was my first of the year.

After a look at the feeders, a single Brambling of note, a leisurely stroll along the West Bank path towards the beach, pausing at various spots to scan the freshwater marsh and across towards Thornham. Still around 100 or so Brent Geese, constantly chattering away and although we heard Bearded Tit within the reed bed we never quite managed to make contact, nor did we see the apparently 'showing well' Bittern at the Island Hide! However, to the East across the reed beds at least five active Marsh Harriers and along the channels Little Grebe, Gadwall and a half dozen Pochard, including three drakes.

Two of seventeen Mediterranean Gulls ~ Unfortunately in direct sunlight!
There's little scrape currently on the freshwater marsh but in places the water was low enough to support various numbers of Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and four sleeping Knot. There seems to be an unprecedented number of Meditteranean Gulls currently, with seventeen today, although I'm aware of numbers of up to forty in recent weeks! The Bracken Marsh produced Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Knot, Ringed Plover and Curlew and a sea-watch was more productive than yesterday, with ten Long-tailed Ducks, (4) Goldeneye, drake Greater Scaup and single Great Crested Grebe!

On route back to the centre, just as a Red Kite drifted over, there was a sudden exodus of the reserve! Would this have had anything to do with fact that the Snowy Owl had just be found once again, this time at RSPB Snettisham.

Bird Species Seen

Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Brent Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Scaup, Tufted Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Meditteranean Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, SNOWY OWL, Barn Owl, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Song THrush, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Goldcrerst, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Bearded Tit (H), Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch, Brambling, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting, Snow Bunting


Roe Deer, Muntjac, Brown Hare

Saturday, March 10, 2018

📖 #15 ~ Norfolk Weekend 1/2

🌤 14C Saturday 10th March 2018 ~ While on route late Friday afternoon for a planned weekend visit to Norfolk a Birdguides update announced that a Snowy Owl had been spotted at Scolt Head Island, Norfolk. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at the Premier Inn Kings Lynn, it was too late in the day to have any chance of visiting.

Notwithstanding I arrived at Burnham Deepdale shortly after 6am on Saturday morning! I was well aware that the last report on Friday had the bird flying off to the west, but I had to start somewhere. It was a pretty atrocious morning with heavy rain falling but on arrival, there were at least a dozen hardy birders already on site. I spent a short time chatting with Penny Clark, who'd managed to view the bird yesterday evening but after a good 90 minutes, I decided to give up and head back to the hotel for breakfast. Amazingly just as I arrived back, the bird had been refound at Thornham Harbour.

I was at Thornham within half an hour and almost immediately onto the bird, thanks to the many helpful birders already there. It was perched up in a dead tree, albeit distant but I managed some reasonable scoped views, this was a UK lifer for me. Unfortunately just as I lined up the Canon SX50 for a long-range record shot the bird flew down into the scrub and out of sight. There it remained for a good while, that was until a couple of dicks with cameras decided to approach, eventually flushing the bird out onto the beach, where it perched up on a post, in fact remaining there for the remainder of the day!

After picking up Dee back at the hotel late morning we decided to head down to Cley marshes for lunch. With RSPB Titchwell mobbed due to the Snowy Owl and parking almost impossible we decided to give it a wide berth. Cley held the usual selection of species, a brace of Marsh Harriers over the reedbeds and a varied selection of waders on Arnolds Marsh. I'll add a full species list for the weekend in tomorrows post. The sea was incredibly quiet with very little of note so we decided to end the day with a visit to Salthouse for the Snow Buntings!

Snow Buntings on Gramborough Hill, Salthouse
Bar-tailed Godwit ~ Cley Marshes

Monday, March 05, 2018

📖 #14 ~ Local & Brandon Marsh

🌤8C Monday 5th March 2018 ~ Broken tooth leading to extraction and stitches, man-flu and being literally frozen in at the marina by the 'Beast from the East' have led to a definite case of birding withdrawal symptoms this past week!

Notwithstanding I've been out and about no matter what the weather over the last few days with local visits to Brandon Marsh and Napton Reservoir. As it happens despite resembling a winter wonderland it was a pretty springlike morning at Brandon on Sunday with a fast thaw going on and a balmy 8C by the time I left shortly after 1pm.

Mediterranean Gull from the Wright Hide found by Graham Rowling!
Wood Mouse ~ Foraging after the big freeze!
Sunday's visit did, in fact, produce two year-ticks with Mediterranean Gull and Yellow-legged Gull, both on East Marsh Pool. Plus a cute little Wood Mouse foraging in the open after the big freeze!

Bearded Tit ~ Napton Reservoir
Today I decided to begin at Napton Reservoir for a look at a currently residing Bearded Tit. It was an easy find with Theo de Clermont already on site and onto the bird. While chatting with Theo a Water Rail calling from within the reedbed, several Reed Bunting and the briefest burst of song, of which I'm convinced was a Blackcap. After a while with Theo and Chris Mathews who arrived on site, I headed off for a few hours at Brandon Marsh.

Bearded Tit
It was certainly a day of bumping into a good selection of Warwickshire birders with Richard Mays, Dave Cox, Paul Cashmore and Denis Woodward already installed in East Marsh hide. Yesterday's Meditteranean Gull reappeared just shortly after I arrived, picked up by Denis initially. The rest of my visit was spent around Carlton and Jury hides with John Coakley. Species of note included: Goosander Pair, Shelduck, (3) Oystercatcher, (4) Wigeon, Water Rail, Little Egret, Sparrowhawk and at least (5) Buzzard on the wing.

Barn Owl ~ Wigram's Turn Marina
The icing on the cake for me was when I returned to the marina later in the afternoon when not one but two Barn Owls were day hunting on the marinas dog walking meadow. Obviously unable to hunt during the freeze and likely desperate for a good meal. Unfortunately during the twenty minutes or so I watched I didn't see any captures and then the rain set in!

BUBO Listing
My BUBO year-list does not currently include American Horned Lark

Saturday, February 24, 2018

📖 #13 ~ Rutland Water

❄️🌤 2C Saturday 24th February 2018 ~ With such a glorious, if not bitterly cold day forecast Dee and I decided to head off to Rutland Water for a spot of winter birding. Double figure Red Kite along the A6003 all enjoying the weather and providing a stunning sight against the deep blue cloudless sky.

American Wigeon ~ Well cropped photo but unmistakable cream forehead and broad eyestripe!
We arrived around midday and after a brief look at the centre bird feeders, we headed straight down to the Redshank Hide on Lagoon 2. Not only due to the fact that the American Wigeon had been reported again, but a coach containing around 40 or so birders from RSPB Group Leeds had just arrived in the car park and were heading our way!

American Wigeon ~ cropped!
By coincidence, Dennis Woodward had kindly called and tipped me off that due to the strong sunlight the Redshank hide was the best place to view. He was correct, around 15 minutes later we were straight onto the bird, if not distant.

We managed further views while visiting Grebe hide along with good numbers of other wintering wildfowl including Eurasian Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shelduck and Pintail, but could only manage two Pochard, so scarce this winter. At the Lapwing hide overlooking the South arm, the biting Easterly wind was head-on, in fact, it resembled more of the seaside, with small waves crashing over the foreshore. Lots of Goldeneye here, along with several Great Crested Grebe but no Divers to be found on this visit!

Redhead Smew ~ Three pairs on Lagoon 4
We spent a good while at Lagoon 4, mostly in the Plover and Sandpiper hides with a good selection of species. This included (6) Egyptian Goose, Goosander (pair), (8) Curlew, (2) Oystercatcher, Sparrowhawk flyby and at least three pairs of Smew! Also of note while enjoying a hot chocolate at the nature centre, Fox and Muntjac Deer. A bonus at Eyebrook reservoir on route home with Glaucous Gull. However, didn't manage an Iceland Gull, which I noticed reported on birdguides later!

A close encounter with drake Smew!

Monday, February 12, 2018

📖 #12 ~ Diver Twitch!

❄️ 🌤 6C Monday 12th February 2018 ~ A mid-morning walk at Draycote Water for another look at the long-staying Hawfinch but mainly for a year-tick Tree Sparrow at the feeders. Only three Tree Sparrows, mainly hidden to start, a few Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings ground feeding in the biting wind but patience paid off after a good twenty minutes.

Tree Sparrow Year-Tick!
I did intend to complete a full circuit but around 12:30pm the phone lit up with a birdguides sighting. Black-throated Diver at Albert Village again. I'd been hoping for this as I've only ever seen UK ones along the coast and so only an hours drive across to Leicestershire I couldn't really ignore it!

Juvenile Black-throated Diver
I arrived around an hour later, parking up just offroad at Reservoir Hill and made my way down the track towards the water's edge. In fact, before I reached the viewing screen I could make out the bird roughly towards the middle near the large island. Job done really but I decided to take a walk around the perimeter, in the hope of being able to study the bird a little more and obtain some closer views.

Juvenile Black-throated Diver
Although the bird never came too close during my stay, lots of dog walkers around and I think it might be half-term in the area I still managed a few acceptable record shots with the Canon SX50!

BUBO Listing
My BUBO year-list does not currently include American Horned Lark

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

📖 #11 ~ Norfolk Epic!

❄️ 🌤 1C Wednesday 7th February 2018 ~ ** WARNING ~ Like the day itself this post is long and epic 💤  ~ Arrived home at around 8:30pm tonight completely exhausted after a 350-mile roundtrip winter birding on the north Norfolk coast, in the company of Alan Boddington and Geoff Hood from the Brandon Marsh team. The weather, although bitterly cold with a brisk northerly breeze was beautiful today with almost wall to wall winter sunshine throughout!

Fulmar ~ This image from previous visits to Hunstanton!
Having arrived on the coast at Hunstanton we decided that it was worth stopping briefly along the roadside above the cliffs for Fulmar. The cliffs here are a regular summer breeding site and it wasn't long before two or three birds rose above on the wind, the stiff wings and shallow wing beat unmistakable. In fact, we observed from the comfort of the car before moving on.

One of the Twite at Thornham Harbour today
Our next stop was Thornham Harbour for the small flock of Twite that is regularly seen in the area. No sign initially from the car park so we took a walk over the small footbridge to check out the saltmarsh and channels. A couple of Rock Pipits were flitting around the mud and along one of the aforementioned channels a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, the male looking resplenadant in the low sunlight. In the distance a huge and noisy flock of Pink-footed Geese on the wing. Out towards the sea, a Peregrine flew low along the sandbank before landing, scattering a flock of Brent Geese. Just below us two Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Curlew and then a small flock appeared, Twite! We followed them back to the car park, where they settled briefly to drink from the puddles, lovely sight.

Lone Knot on the Brackish Marsh at RSPB Titchwell
RSPB Titchwell next for the 11:00am high tide and a leisurely walk along the west bank path towards the beach. A look west across the wet marsh and the partially dry pool failed to yield Water Pipit, two Meadow Pipit and Rock Pipit only and a couple of distant Marsh Harrier. The freshwater marsh is completely submerged, save for a couple of small islands which provided a resting place for three pairs of Red-crested Pochard, a dozen Avocet and a lone Brent Goose. The usual selection of wildfowl also scattered throughout with Pintail, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and decent numbers of Pochard. The brackish marsh provided better opportunities for waders and not far out a single Knot. This along with various counts of Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank.

At the beach, the wind, as you would expect was biting and the sea pretty rough, this would be challenging to say the least but we settled down and made the best of the dunes for shelter. I'm always amazed to see Great Crested Grebes at sea, particularly in this weather, but there were at least a dozen or so offshore, bouncing around in the swell. In the foreground along the tideline a couple of hardy Sanderling, and literally at our toes the ever scavenging Turnstone. Back offshore and a small black duck with white wing bars low over the water, a Velvet Scoter, which Geoff and I followed until it dipped down behind the waves. Further scans produced Common Scoters, Guillemots, Goldeneye, single Goosander and a possible Razorbill but as I said earlier it was challenging so we moved on back to the centre.

On route back, we stopped occasionally to scan and while checking the brackish marsh once again managed to find two Greenshank and a single Spotted Redshank! On the opposite side, across the saltmarsh, a small eruption threw up several Snipe, Little Egret and Teal, the culprit, a ringtail Hen Harrier, fantastic views as the bird flew low before dipping down, pretty close in by viewing standards. Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler just before arriving back at the centre, where a female Brambling was noted on the feeders.

Some of the confiding Shore Larks at Holkham Gap
A stop at Cholsey Drying Barns to have our packed lunch before our final two destinations of the day at Holkham and Salthouse. Cholsey was interesting, with Lapwing and Golden Plover across the fields, but unfortunately didn't yield Corn Bunting during our short stay. However, good views of many Brown Hares, three Grey Partridge, several Red-legged Partridge and a large flock of Yellowhammers along the hedgerow near the winter crop feed! One species in mind at our next stop Holkham Gap! It was a decent slog along the beach to find the small flock of Shore Larks but entirely worth it, in fact, it was feeling pretty springlike by now or was that just the ten layers of clothing kicking in?

A few of the 100+ Snow Buntings at Salthouse!
By the time we reached Salthouse the day was quickly ebbing away so after a cuppa at the car we made our way up to Gramborough Hill. Primarily for the large flock of Snow Buntings, which we were told were happily sunning themselves on the shingle. As we arrived it was obvious that the birds had had enough leisure time and were making ready for roost, a large flock in flight above.

Snow Buntings over Gramborough Hill
In fact, despite not seeing them close to the ground it was pretty impressive stuff, the birds circling overhead and being joined by more small groups, Starling-esk! We thought this a fitting end to a great days birding, which in fact hadn't ended, with a Barn Owl hunting directly over the car on our return. It didn't even end there when on route home in the twilight the unmistakable silhouette of a Woodcock flew directly over the car at Heacham and another Barn Owl along Brandon Lane. For me, it didn't end there either, with two further Barn Owls on route back to the marina after dropping the guys off at Brandon!!

BUBO Listing
BUBO does not currently include American Horned Lark

Monday, February 05, 2018

📖 #11 ~ Cattle Egret

🌤 5C Monday 5th February 2018 ~ The morning was spent chasing a Cattle Egret at Thornton, Leicestershire! When I arrived on site, which is basically at the bottom of a culdesac overlooking a field, I was informed that the bird had gone AWOl, two fields over.

Cattle Egret ~ Thornton Leicestershire
The intrepid explorer that I am I wasted no time in pursuit. Frankly, I needn't have bothered! Trekking along two footpaths, down a muddy horse paddock to a small brook and lake there was no sign. However, by the time I arrived back at the gate, mud up to my knees and anticipating my first failure of the week the bird flew straight back into the field! I wonder if Egrets can smile 😂

Cattle Egret ~ Arrives back

Cattle Egret ~ Can Egrets smile?

Sunday, February 04, 2018

📖 2018/Update #10 ~ Gloucestershire

🌤 5C Sunday 4th February 2018 ~ A much better day weather wise, although a biting northerly airflow making it feel bitterly cold!

Record shot of Penduline Tit at Plock court
With the long-staying Plock Court Penduline Tit literally just across the road from our hotel, we decided to start our day here, forgoing a report of yesterdays Glossy Ibis showing on the south lake back at Slimbridge. Despite visiting myself last month, Dee was keen to go have a look at this rare UK visitor. On arrival the bird was showing, although distant in the usual spot feeding on the reedmace to the rear of the small reedbed, a half dozen photographers lined up and waiting!

Stonechat at Plock Court
We spent a short while here, the bird not coming too close, also noting a smart pair of Stonechat before we moved off. Where next? Glossy Ibis or a short drive to look for the Richard's Pipit at Arlington! With a likely chance of seeing Glossy Ibis somewhere else later in the year we decided on the latter.

Dee's record shot of the not to ellusive Richard's Pipit!
Arriving a short time later and parking opposite Slowe House we set off along a right of way through a muddy farm yard then onward to the flood defence embankment which overlooks the Severn Estuary. Finding this bird was likely to be a challenge, with at this point, few birders on site. After a good while back and forth along the embankment we met a welsh birder who told us he'd just sighted the bird much further down, apparently feeding alongside a Skylark not far rom the waters edge. Off we went to the designated area, and after a half hour the only birds sighted (4) Skylark and a Meadow Pipit!! To be honest Dee was beginning to freeze up, me too for that matter and so we decided to have one last look in the birds favoured field and depart. Talk about can't see the wood for the trees, not sure if it was there all along but it was no more that 150 yards away when we arrived back, apparently in its favoured spot!!

I did promise Dee a day in the Forest of Dean today but with the long search and the day ebbing away we decided to head back to WWT Slimbridge for a late lunch and a short search for the Glossy Ibis before heading home!

BUBO Listing