Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Norfolk Visit

Took an early morning drive across to the Norfolk coast on Wednesday starting off at RSPB Snettisham for the morning high tide. Absolutely stunning sights with Knot, Godwits, Plovers and Oystercatcher blackening the skies. It was nice to see several families with young kids set up picnic style to witness the amazing waderfest!

Bar-headed Goose - An increase in the UK feral population apparently!
Other highlights included Mediterranean Gull, Fulmar and watching two Arctic Skuas at reasonable distance harassing a couple of Common Terns, the later of which managing to escape with their food still in tact. The surprise of the visit was my first UK encounter with a Bar-headed Goose, a bird which seems to be increasing in feral population, apparently even managing to breed in the Manchester area!

RSPB Titchwell next and firstly a walk around to Patsy's Reedbed, managing a couple of Red-crested Pochard and some brief views of Bearded Tit. Unfortunately the Red-backed Shrike reported in this area the day before seemed to have departed. We also managed 17 Spoonbill from the end of the track looking back across the freshwater marsh and a couple of Marsh Harrier.

Wheatear at Snettisham - Not the most prolific day on the camera!
A better look at the Freshwater and Tidal Marsh's from the West Bank Path produced the usual selection of waders, including Black-tailed GodwitSnipe,  Little EgretAvocet, Curlew, Ringed Plover, many Ruff, (3) Greenshank and both Golden and Grey Plover still sporting most of their summer plumage. Unfortunately a huge exodus, including Heron's and Spoonbills by an unknown culprit put paid to any chance of Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper, a couple of target birds for the visit. The beach produced Peregrine and incredibly another two Arctic Skuas but little else in the way of passage birds. On the shore Turnstone, more Grey Plover, Sanderling and a lone Bar-tailed Godwit.

A quick visit to the Cley beach area before heading off was a little more lucrative with a dozen or so Sandwich Terns, single Little Tern, (4) Common Terns and (8) Gannet, including several juvenile!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Local Stuff!

Spent a few hours at Napton-on-the-Hill this morning watching the Spotted Flycatchers at work! Normally their bunched in a single group but today they seemed a little more fragmented, with three separate gatherings!

Eyes on the job in hand! Spotted Flycatcher ready to pounce!
With regard to the Redstarts seen here regularly of late it seems I'm destined to miss out! Despite meeting up with Richard, Dave & Paul a little later in the morning there was no sign today. A Painted Lady butterfly was another highlight of the morning before heading off.

Brimstone in the doggie walking meadow!
Having dropped the wife's car in for service in the afternoon I was marooned at the marina and took the opportunity for a walk around the grounds. Brown Hawker and Migrant Hawker, plus a pristine Brimstone on the dog walking meadow and a couple of local Ravens over.

Spotted Flycatcher - Couldn't resist another image of these amazing birds!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Brandon Marsh

Spent my usual Tuesday at Brandon Marsh with little in the way of migration. Only waders to be found were a single Ruff and two Green Sandpipers.

One of two Painted Ladies on the 'Tip' area at Brandon Marsh
Despite a chilly start the sun made a few appearances after lunch and a walk down to River Meadow and around the farm area produced several butterfly species. These included (7) Common Blue, (4) Small Copper and a couple of specimens of Painted Lady, one very worn and the other photographed above, very pristine! Worth a mention was a Cetti's Warbler calling from the West Marsh reedbed while I was chatting to the trust guys who were cutting the river meadow with the trusts new tractor! Significantly this is the first bird I've heard over the summer period, a species which flourished at Brandon but seems to have crashed over recent years.

Small Copper - This rather worn looking specimen was one of four during Tuesdays visit!
There were also several large Tit flocks to be found, always worth spending the time and effort to go through. In this case it was well worth it and in among the dozen or so Long-tailed Tits were: (2) Willow Tit, Garden Warbler, (3) Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, (3) Blackcap, Goldcrest and (2) juvenile Treecreepers.

Migrant Hawker in the hotspot at Horsetail Glade! 
Today was spent completing the annual strimming of the Islands and banks on East Marsh Pool. After work and a cuppa with the team the sun was shining so I took a stroll around Horsetail Glade on a Dragonfly quest, well in search of my 1st Migrant Hawker of the year! This was duly recorded near the bench area, an area I refer to as the hotspot, due to the lack of canopy producing a suntrap. Just a single Migrant Hawker, plus Southern Hawker and Common Darter. While I was here a Hobby flew south over the reserve!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rainy Day!

Out and about on the patch today with a visit to Napton-on-the-Hill first on the list. Here I met up with Tim Marlow heading off and Richard Mays, Dave Cox & Paul Cashmore heading in!

Red Deer at Napton!
With rain threatening and a different wind direction today the Spotted Flycatchers could be found in a slightly different sheltered location. A reduction in numbers compared to previous counts with nine confirmed in total, including one very young recently fledged bird. Also of note during our stay: (3) Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Coal TitTreecreeper, Great spotted Woodpecker and (5) Swift, with sadly no evidence of Redstarts. A look across the old quarry from the windmill yielded little. However, just below us and nestled in a corner was the above Red Deer, probably there the whole time with all four of us oblivious until Dave connected!

With the rain now established Draycote Water was well worth a punt and here I split with the others, donned my wets and set off. When I'd reached Farborough Spit, where I managed (22) Yellow Wagtails and (5) juvenile Blackcaps on the fencing, I paused for a while to take in an unprecedented amount of Swifts. Circa 200 is a conservative estimate and pretty amazing for the time of year! From here I headed back to the centre and on to Hensborough Bank to check for waders. On arrival in heavy rain (3) Dunlin, (2) Little-ringed Plover and (3) Ringed Plover. Best I could manage on the water was (4) Yellow-legged Gull, with sadly no sign of any tern activity during my stay!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The One That Got Away!

After unexpectedly waking at 5am and witnessing a gorgeous sunrise an hour later I decided not to let the morning go to waste and made an early start at Draycote Water.

Gorgeous sunrise at the moorings this morning!
It turned out to be quite an intriguing mornings birding locally, meeting up with Richard Mays and Dave Cox firstly at Draycote, breakfast at the Long Itchington diner, where we met up with Paul Cashmore, before heading on to Napton-on-the-Hill.

Ruff - Asleep for all of our stay at  Hensborough Bank!
Draycote was a little disappointing on the migration front to be honest, but did offer up a single Ruff, which didn't perform for the camera, (3) Dunlin, (2) Grey Wagtail, (6) Yellow Wagtail, (2) Common Tern, single Common Sandpiper and my first local Meadow Pipit of the late summer/autumn!

Grainy image of one of fourteen Spotted Flycatchers at Napton today!
Napton-on-the-Hill was alive with Spotted Flycatchers, (14) in total, plus (3) Lesser Whitethroat and a single Common  Whitethroat, a Common Redstart was briefly seen by Dave but unfortunately I didn't manage to connect.

The mystery of the day was a Raptor Sp. spotted by Richard which passed overhead at Napton, sadly at distance and despite having the four of us on hand we couldn't quite nail the ID. A really difficult one to call this with thoughts of a possible Black Kite sending the pulse racing but frankly, much to Richards disgust and frustration we simply have to let that one go!!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Devon Cream

Spent the weekend in the wonderful county of Devon celebrating the engagement and blessing of one of Dee's childhood friends. An excellent day with Devon cream teas, sandwiches and cakes, plus wonderful company. Not too mention the odd cider or two!

This of course gave us the opportunity to visit a few descent birding haunts and even catching up with a Warwickshire local when amazingly Jim Timms and his wife wondered into the hide while we were visiting RSPB Bowling Green Marsh on Saturday morning. A good selection of waders to be had here which included of note: Summer plumage Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, RedshankCurlew Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Greenshank, huge numbers of Curlew and the odd Sandwich Tern along the estuary.

Despite taking us by surprise, I managed to snap this as the 'Union' passed through!
Before heading home Sunday we made our way south along the coast and stopped first at RSPB Exminster Marshes to catch up with a juvenile White-winged Black Tern. This also produced another very pleasant surprise, in the form of an A4 class steam-train 'The Union Of South Africa, which was hauling the 'Royal Duchy Excursion' and passed us unexpectedly as we made our way along the footpath! Eat your heart out Richard Mays!! We eventually caught up with the tern, a smart looking little bird, which despite spending a lot of it's time on the Exeter Canal was fishing on a small pool on the opposite side during our stay.

Long staying Slavonian Grebe in Cockwood harbour
Moving further south to Dawlish Warren, stopping off at Cockwood, where a long staying Slavonian Grebe has been residing in the harbour. Although locating the bird pretty easily the tide was way out and the only views available were distant, hence the above heavily cropped image. Over fifty or so Ringed Plover, along with smaller numbers of Dunlin and Curlew were also feeding around the harbour, four Bar-tailed Godwit, Rock Pipit and a single Little Egret were also noted.

Cirl Buntings in Teignmouth!
Devon is also a great place to see Cirl Buntings and with time moving on we decided on foregoing Labrador Bay, the usual spot and instead headed up the hill at Teignmouth to another known hotspot.

Cirl Bunting - Always a pleasure to see!
After parking at the community school we'd literally only gone a few yards when Dee dropped onto one. We enjoyed a short time observing these smart looking Buntings before heading off back home and I must say a very surprising and painless drive back up the M5 ended a top weekend!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Where Was The Rain?

A break from boat painting today due to the forecast and an enjoyable day in the field. Firstly a stop off at Draycote Water, where I caught up with Richard and Dave and then on to Brandon Marsh for the remainder of the morning and afternoon. Despite another woeful attempt at weather forecasting by the met-office, there was in fact very little rain at all, and indeed some nice periods of sunshine!

Common Tern at rest - Draycote Water
Draycote had  at least ten Black Terns, mostly way off towards Lin Croft point from my vantage point, six Common Terns and a lone Little-ringed Plover.

Juvenile Redshank Teal Pool 
I arrived at Brandon Marsh around 10.30hrs and decided to head straight off to the hides, in anticipation of the rain! At Teal Pool Hide a decent count of seven Green Sandpipers, along with the above juvenile Redshank! I bird which I believe seems to be causing a few miss ID issues, particularly over recent weeks.

Lone Snipe seen earlier on East Marsh, then showing well from the Ted Jury Hide
After completing a tour of all the hides recording of note: Common Sandpiper, Snipe, Hobby, Little Grebe and Water Rail I headed off for a tour of the remainder of the reserve.

Small Copper at Brandon Marsh today
A good number of butterflies on the wing at various times and these included of note (3) Small Copper, (10) Common Blue and my first Brown Argus of the year. Dragonflies included Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker and Common Darter. Worth mentioning too the six juvenile Mistle Thrush,which were in the field opposite the main Brandon entrance as I departed.

One of several juvenile Yellow Wagtails on the pontoons during the evening roost.!
Closer to home the marina has been my main source of recording over the previous few weeks, with several juvenile Yellow Wagtails joining the Pied Wagtail roost each evening, a brace of Common Sandpiper, Red Kite over and both Barn Owl and Tawny Owl have also been noted.

Painted Lady - One of a trio at the marina on the 6th
An excellent find of (3) Painted Lady's on the doggie walking meadow, along with (2) Essex Skipper on the 6th and while barbecuing on Saturday evening a Humming-bird Hawk-moth was the main attraction, along with Pippistrelle Bats, the International Space Station and the odd early Perseid meteor later in the evening. Or was that the wine!!

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Another Summer Catch-up!

Well since my last post 10 days ago nothing much has changed but having said that a brief encounter with a Spotted Crake by Geoff Hood and Jim Rushforth at Brandon Marsh certainly got the pulse racing!

After receiving the call shortly after 7am on the Thursday morning I raced down there, only to spend a few hours in the big hide drawing a complete blank. Although a few reports since have been a little sketchy, I'm not aware of any decent views being had by anyone!

Draycote Water Essex Skipper
I spent a little time at Draycote water in the company of Bob Hazell and Keith Foster on the 27th and although the birding was a little slow, my highlight being a Red Kite, we came across Bob's first Essex Skipper of the year.

White-letter Hairstreak - River Meadow
Of course when the birding is slow at this time of year butterflies are always a real treat and during my regular Tuesday visit to Brandon Marsh on the 28th I came across the above White-letter Hairstreak. In fact during today's visit a Purple Hairstreak was near Sheep-Field gate plus my first Clouded Yellow of the year, when one zoomed across the 'Tip' area in the strong wind! Also on the wing some very pristine looking Brimstone.

Brimstone - Several on the wing at Brandon
Another surprise, this time on the birding front was a very early Siskin, when I spotted one flying SW over River Meadow after hearing the call mid afternoon. Other highlights were two Marsh Tit and five Green Sandpiper, plus a juvenile Redshank, which a birder in the Teal Pool Hide insisted was a Ruff! Although I am aware of a video showing a Ruff on Teal Pool yesterday evening!

Hawker Sea Hurricane
Finally, another passion of mine being aviation I thought I'd mention an excellent visit to Old Warden Aerodrome, home of the Shuttleworth Collection and Sunday's airshow.

The amazing De Havilland Comet 1934 (its the red one!)
Here two of my all time favourite aircraft took to the skies, along with many other vintage classics: Hawker Sea Hurricane and De Havilland Comet 1934!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mid Summer Catch-up!

From a weather perspective it's certainly turning out to be a 'typically' British one! Reading the Met Office weather blog it also appears to have been a particularly windy one too and a lack of high pressure seems to be to blame! Saturdays deluge certainly lived up to expectations, with more Atlantic fronts to come and seasonally cool temperatures to continue in the short-term.

Record shot of Greenshank on East Marsh Pool, Brandon Marsh!
However, there are always benefits to be had and waders appear to be on the move. Last Sunday (19th) for example a Greenshank dropped into Brandon Marsh briefly and a total of four Green Sandpipers are currently to be found on site. Little-ringed Plovers drop in now and again and a single Dunlin was recorded on my regular Tuesday visit (21st).

Green Sandpiper in front of big hide at Brandon
Also of note a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling over towards the golf course from Alban's bench! Closer to home a stroll around the marina grounds the following evening just before sunset yielded a Whimbrel calling in the vicinity, but unfortunately I failed to connect and the bird seemed to continue on.

Avocet - A very gloomy record shot of the Brandon Avocet on Teal Pool
A visit to Brandon Marsh yesterday in the pouring rain produced an Avocet, first seen by Bob Lee and remained on Teal Pool well into the afternoon.

Juvenile Redstart at Napton - Yet another record shot but all good stuff!
Finally there's movement at Napton-on-the-Hill and Spotted Flycatchers have arrived, or fledged close by in small numbers, with at least a half dozen to be found in the paddocks. Another recent find, a Common Redstart, was showing quite well in the late morning sunshine and while visiting it was great to see no less than seven Mistle Thrush come through!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Local Stuff!

A day out around the local area starting off by accompanying Jim Timms on one of his butterfly transects. Although the day started off a little overcast there was plenty of warm sunshine to be had and many Butterflies and Odanata on the wing.

Silver-washed Fritillary - Plenty on offer but would they land!!
One of the highlights had to be at least four Purple Emperors, including a couple of males, which we managed to get some half decent scoped views of at treetop level.  Silver-washed Fritillary were also quite numerous but trying to get any decent images proved a little harder.

White Admiral - Another brief photo opportunity.
White Admirals were also in decent numbers, along with Small Skipper, Ringlet & Meadow Brown. Smaller numbers of Large White, Green-veined White, Speckled Wood & Marbled White were also noted.

Emerald Damselflies - Double figures during the transect!
A good selection of Dragonfly and Damselfly, the latter producing many numbers of Common & Azure, but my favourite had to be Emerald Damselfly, over twenty seen today! Four-spotted Chaser, Ruddy & Common Darter, EmperorBlack-tailed Skimmer & Brown Hawker also noted.

Six-spot Burnet Moth - One of a half dozen today.
At least a half dozen Six-spot Burnet Moth and the large pools which the transect encircles had a lone Black-tailed Godwit, which Jim tells me is a first in 8 years. However, as he pointed out most of the time he's looking towards the ground! Another birding highlight was a Red Kite, which drifted over Cubbington, a really enjoyable day out!