Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Patch Visits

I had hoped for a glimpse of Mercury just prior to sunrise and things looked quite hopeful to start with, a tiny slither of the moon just above the eastern horizon and Mercury due to rise just below. Sadly it wasn't to be as the cloud cover ruled out any possibility just at the wrong time.

Grey Wagtail looking very surreal in the froth!
The marina Pied Wagtail roost was starting to disperse as I walked the perimeter and the Draycote gull roost was also on the move with several flocks passing overhead on route to the days feeding grounds. A quick look at Napton Reservoir before heading to Draycote was a disappointment and so too was Draycote, despite the remnants of hurricane Gonzalo passing through over the last 24hrs. With the disruption (described on Richards Blog) the best I could manage with Bob and Richard was a Little Egret, Grey Wagtail, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover (heard), Goldeneye pair and a spectacular Woodpigeon movement, with hundreds heading south.

Mistle Thrush at Napton
After coffee with Richard (Bob went walkabout) I headed off to Napton churchyard and here the place was alive with birds. Just sitting at the church entrance gate a couple of Redwing and Mistle Thrush in the tall oak, at least three Goldcrest in the Yew trees, plus my first Siskin of the autumn overhead. A walk around the grounds produced Chiffchaff and along the footpath down towards School Hill a couple of Brambling feeding high in the Sycamore, more autumn firsts.

Green Woodpecker
I spent a very pleasant 90 minutes before the rain set in and further added Sparrowhawk, (3) Raven, Green Woodpecker and Treecreeper. Surprisingly a Red Admiral shot passed at one stage and there seemed to be plenty of Hornets around too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Brandon Team Day Out

Temp - 10C/13C - Cloud with Rain Shower Later - Wind NW @ 12 mph -  High-Tide 04:24hrs (6.10mtrs) - 17:05hrs (6.20mtrs)

I'd organised another Away-Day on Monday and took fourteen of the Brandon Marsh team across to visit the north Norfolk coast, once again many thanks to Warwickshire Wildlife Trust for the use of their minibus.

We arrived at RSPB Titchwell shortly before 10am, Red Kite on route, and our first target was a reported Yellow-browed Warbler, which had been located along the Meadow Trail. After a half hour search, where a couple of the guys may have heard the bird, we eventually dipped but managed Goldcrest, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, several Redwing overhead and a small group of Long-tailed Tits for our efforts.

♀Pintail - close in at RSPB Titchwell
Making our way along the public footpath a Bittern flew to the rear of the fresh marsh, seen a couple of times later when the bird eventually flew west across the path and down onto the meadow. Despite the breeze at least two pairs of Bearded Tits were showing quite well, albeit briefly but these birds are difficult to find here during a calm day, so a real bonus for the guys. Looking west across the wet meadow a distant harrier turned out to be a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier, a second bird was also seen coming in off the sea a short time later.

Stonechat by John Osbourne
The reserve was remarkably busy for a Monday, possibly boosted by a Penduline Tit sighted the day before and indeed a group of vigilant 'twitchers' were located in the area it had been seen, not today though but a Stonechat was showing well! By the time we reached the beach the usual selection of wildfowl and waders had been recorded both on the fresh and tidal marshes including: Brent Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Pochard, Gadwall, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Avocet, Ruff, Grey Plover, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Dunlin.

Shore Lark by Trevor Griffiths - More patient than me!!
Shore Lark by Trevor Griffiths
Down at the beach a sea-watch produced several racks of Common Scoter off shore, along with Eider, Great-crested Grebe and a single Red-breasted Merganser. However, our best 'twitch' of the day took us about a 0.5km west along the sand dunes in search of a Shore Lark. Said bird found after two attempts, don't you just hate having to drudge back to an area seconds after returning to your starting point! During our time along the shore a Peregrine made a welcome appearance and a single Snow Bunting flew east low over the shingle. Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Turnstone, Oystercatcher and Great Blacked-backed Gull other notables but our watch failed to produce any decent sea birds, a reported Pomarine Skua not seen by any of the team.

A very obliging Snow Bunting by John Osbourne
Cley Marshes next and a long spell of unexpected rain (well done met office) fell during the drive over and for around a half hour after our arrival. Parking at the beach car park the majority bolted to see the Grey Phalarope (ingrates) which was showing quite well on the north scrape by the time I arrived. A Grebe Sp. a little way offshore was almost certainly a Slavonian Grebe for me: clean white cheeks, crisp black cap and dagger-like bill all ticked the boxes, but I only managed to get a couple of the guys on it. (ingrates missed out!) Everyone managed the Snow Bunting, brace of Wheatears and Grey Phalarope, plus at least four Red-throated Divers and Razorbill on the water, there were also at least four juvenile Gannets but specks on the horizon.

Grey Phalarope in the rain by me!
A brief vigil to look for a Pallas's Warbler (needle in a haystack) at Walsey Hills and with light fading on to our final stop, a look at Salthouse and Grandborough Hill. Here as with most of the day Meadow Pipit and Skylark were abundant, but a single Rock Pipit was located. A large flock of Goldfinch along with Snipe, Stonechat, Wheatear, and two covey's of Red-legged Partridge, some debate as to whether the most distant were Grey Partridge or not. A real surprise was a group of ten European White-fronted Geese feeding on the wet marsh adjacent to the hill. During an excellent day several distant skeins of geese may well have been Pink-footed and also of note Egyptian Goose, Kestrel, Common Buzzard and Marsh Harrier. The fish and chips at Eye on route home are also worth a mention!!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Draycote Circuit

A beautiful starry pre-dawn as I set off around the marina grounds this morning, in fact with temperatures in the low teens it was more like summer than autumn. Well over 100 birds in the Pied Wagtail roost but still to dark to do the hawthorn or adjacent fields justice, although Tree Sparrow, Linnet and Song Thrush all heard.

One of two Rock Pipit today.
I arrived at Draycote Water around 7:15am and once up on the bank didn't take long to locate the Great Skua out towards the middle. The usual Meadow Pipits were flitting around and one or two early Skylarks overhead, a Sparrowhawk had a half hearted attempt at a few Mipits but left empty handed. Richard and Dave arrived a short time after and we took a slow stroll up towards Farborough Spit. Although species weren't too varied there was lots of activity with small flocks of Starlings and Thrushes moving through. Redwing, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and a single Golden Plover, calling desperately in the hope of finding it's mates, were all noted.

Bob and Keith Foster caught up and after Richard and Dave departed for the Skylark Cafe mega breakfast I continued on. Only planning a walk to the hide and back I ended up completing a full circuit with the intrepid Bob and Keith.

It wasn't a bad circuit in quite pleasant conditions with of note: Chiffchaff (4), Treecreeper (1), Rock Pipit (2), Grey Wagtail (2), Raven (4), Buzzard (6), ♀Pintail and a couple of drake Goldeneye, one of which a 1st winter juvenile. A few butterflies on the wing with Peacock, Red Admiral and Brimstone all recorded.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday tour!

A bit of a fragmented day in the field with a few car issues needing to be sorted mid morning. The day began well as Dee and I walked along the west-side to the marina car park, when a calling Tree Pipit flew over heading south. After seeing Dee off to work I began by spending a few hours at Draycote Water in the company of Bob Hazell and Keith Foster. The usual passage of Skylark overhead with plenty of Meadow Pipit and at least one Rock Pipit, a single Wheatear and a couple of Grey Wagtails other notables.

Great Skua - Canon SX50 on full digital! Bob took better ones later!
I'd only planned to go as far as the hide and back along Farborough Bank, but a phone call to Bob from Tim Marlow had us doubling back to Farborough Spit for a Great Skua. Distant views on the water with a short flight and argument with a few other Gulls, plus a fly-by Dunlin was the best I managed before heading off.

Common Gull
Napton reservoir next and here there's a good deal of mud still showing, (8) Snipe and an autumnal influx of (23) Common Gull on the water, several at the marina too. Wildfowl included the usual Coot-fest, (2) GadwallGreat-crested Grebe and (2) Little Grebe.

After sorting the car my arrival at Napton on the Hill couldn't have been worse timed with a huge funeral in progress. That ruled out a look around the church yard but I managed an hour along the 'gully'. This was pretty quiet apart from a Stoat but two large Thrush flocks which passed overhead contained mainly Song Thrush and Redwing, but a couple of Fieldfare at the leading edge were my first of the autumn.

Redwing - Arriving back in small flocks
After a spot of business in Rugby I did manage an hour at Brandon Marsh on route home in the late afternoon. East Marsh Pool had of note (4) Common Gull, (8) Snipe and before entering the Ted Jury Hide a Willow Tit was calling with (4) Meadow Pipit overhead. From the hide the long staying Stonechat was showing well, Green SandpiperGrey Wagtail, (2) Buzzard, and Kestrel were other notables.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Rutland Water

Thought I'd take a little drive off piste today and ended up at Rutland Water, a couple of Red Kite on route. A clear blue sky and little wind greeted me when I arrived at the Egleton Birdwatching Centre shortly after 10 o'clock.

Distant shot of Great White Egret - Lagoon 1
From the centre I decided to start to the south of the reserve and began at the Mallard Hide overlooking Lagoon 1. I was immediately onto a Great White Egret which looked stunning in the bright sunshine. Quite close by a Little Egret, Red-crested Pochard and the usual selection of wildfowl: Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Shoveler. The only wader of note apart from the many Lapwing was a single Curlew. I visited a few other hides on the southern end but things seemed pretty quiet. During my walk a constant trickle of Skylark over with a few Meadow Pipits here and there.

Egyptian Goose - Increased population
After lunch I headed north and began at the Sandpiper Hide overlooking Lagoon 4. Plenty on offer here with a selection of waders which included Golden Plover, Dunlin and a single Little Stint. Egyptian Geese numbers seem to have rocketed since my last visit and good numbers of Pintail were also on offer. At the Dunlin Hide a selection of Gulls which included Greater and Lesser Black-backed, Common Gull and Yellow-legged Gull. Finally at the Plover Hide a single Ruff, several Little Grebe and a Sparrowhawk which kept causing havoc, plus a large flock of Linnet, a trio of late Swallows and brace of House Martin.

Black-tailed Godwit
Lagoon 3 next and here the highlight was a couple of late Hobby, which were constantly feeding on the many dragonfly on the wing: Migrant Hawker, Common and Ruddy Darter all recorded. My first Goldeneye's of the autumn, Black-tailed Godwit and Buzzard were the other notables before heading off.

Ring-necked Duck - I took these in Canada in 2013
Finally I drove around to the North Arm with Gerry, one of the wildlife trusts trustee's I'd met on the reserve earlier. We were very lucky! As we got to the bottom of the road a 15 minute scan revealed the drake Ringed-necked Duck among the many Tufted Duck on the fish ponds. Some good scoped views before the bird flew off in the direction of Dickinson's Bay. Near the shoreline it wasn't long before we picked up a couple of Blacked-necked Grebe, Greenshank, (6) Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Red-crested Pochard and a lone Wheatear to end a real purple patch!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Draycote in the Rain!

With this mornings low pressure front forecast to clear up early afternoon I thought I'd nip across to Draycote Water for a few hours birding. At least a dozen House Martin feeding low over the water on arrival.

Wheatear in low light along Farborough Bank
By the time I'd reached Farborough Spit I was soaked wet through but the birding wasn't too bad with the usual Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails and odd Skylark passing over. At least 23 Yellowhammer along the wall was a great count, including several juveniles, other notables (2) Little Egret, Wheatear, Rock Pipit and eight Raven over. Visibility was pretty poor at this stage and nothing out of the ordinary could to be found over the water.

One of at least four Rock Pipit at Draycote today!
I met up with Bob Hazell, after the rain had subsided and the visibility had improved and we took a walk to Rainbow Corner. During our walk a constant small passage of Swallows and House Martins were still to be found and at one time two more Ravens passed through.

Dunlin - spent most of it's time resting up!
At least four Rock Pipit, Dunlin, Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher and four Pochard were other highlights before I left Bob patiently hoping, camera on scope, that the Dunlin would wake up!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Lincolnshire Sunday

After a healthy McDonald's breakfast we set off for RSPB Frampton Marsh, one of my personal favourite reserves, arriving in beautiful autumnal sunshine.

Water Vole - Once again Dee's patience paid off!
From the car park plenty of Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Linnets across the wet meadow, not so wet currently though. In fact I was pretty disappointed all around with just how little water there was within the freshwater scraps! We made our way along the road towards the sea-bank, occasionally hearing the plop of the odd Water Vole from the roadside ditches. This is of course a red rag to a bull for Dee, who patiently waited around after we'd had some brief views for a chance to snap one.

Glossy Ibis - Another one of Dee's images!
When I reached the bank a group of birders were hanging around above and at the base of the steps complaining that the Glossy Ibis was nowhere to be found. That is of course until Dee caught up and found the bird sleeping in the long grass not 30 yards in front of them, what a girl!! It wasn't long before the bird was up and about, much to the delight of others.

Clouded Yellow record shot - Daria Yates
Along the sea-bank Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, and numerous Little Egret across the salt-marsh, plus a distant view of a Spoonbill as it drifted left to right before disappearing. Several Red Admiral butterfly on the wing this morning and a single Clouded Yellow, which naturally Dee chased down. Viewing back across the reserve at least 1000 Brent Geese often airborne, along with our first Pink-footed Geese of the autumn, hundreds of Wigeon and a brace of Wheatear were also noted.

One of a brace of Wheatear seen at Frampton today!
A stop at the East Hide to check out the waders but with little water not as numerous as usual. Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, AvocetRedshank and Ringed Plover all noted. In the distance a couple of Buzzard and Kestrel and waterfowl included Shelduck, Teal and Gadwall.

Visits to the Reedbed and 360 hide proved to be hard work with little water from the 360 but we managed further additions to the day list with a half dozen Pintail, plus Shoveler, Little Grebe, Curlew, Snipe and the only Curlew Sandpiper of the day.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Lincolnshire Saturday

A weekend away on the Lincolnshire coast and no sooner had we departed the marina on Saturday morning than the predicted deluge arrived. We'd planned to start at Gibraltar Point but by the time we neared Boston it was hammering down, so we took a detour and ended up in the hide at RSPB Freiston Shore.

Freiston held good numbers of Brent Geese and Wigeon on the salt water lagoon and waders included RedshankRinged Plover, Curlew, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and a lone Knot. We decided to move on after an hour or so and spent the early afternoon in Skegness. After lunch we had a great time enjoying the delights of this seaside town, we actually made a profit on the slots machines for a change!

Curlew looking quite surreal in the strong evening sunlight at Gibraltar Point
By 4 o'clock the rain had subsided and by the time we reached the car park at Gibraltar Point the sun had come out to produce a gorgeous evening. When we arrived at the sea shore the visibility was excellent offering superb views of the Norfolk coastline some distance across the wash. A half dozen Red-throated Divers were showing beautifully in the late evening sun, their red throats still distinct in the bright sunlight. A few Grey Seals were popping up now and again and several juvenile Gannets were practicing their diving a short distance out.

View from Gibraltar Point in the late evening!
A walk along the shoreline to a few open areas gave an opportunity for a prolonged sea-watch and here we recorded: Arctic Tern, Sandwich Tern, Mediterranean Gull and a Skua SP. far too distant for any positive ID. Waders included Curlew, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit. Stops at Mere Hide and Harvey's Hide on route back to the car further recorded Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Linnet, Snipe, Stonechat and to end an enjoyable evening before heading for the hotel, a Barn Owl hunting close to the car park just as the sun set!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Weekly Update

A tour of the local areas started off today with a quick look around the Marina grounds. A group of five juvenile Yellowhammer, Chiffchaff and a calling Tawny Owl before I headed off to Draycote Water. A very chilly Draycote was pretty dire to be honest and apart from the many Meadow Pipits to be found and a single Grey Wagtail, a couple of Little Egret was the best I could manage before I gave up and moved on to Brandon Marsh.

Brandon was also extremely quiet and I spent a short time in the East Marsh and Teal Pool Hides before taking a look at Newlands from the new Ted Jury Hide. East Marsh produced of note: Willow Tit, over 100 Wigeon, a couple of Common Snipe and over 40 Gadwall with a single Green Sandpiper on Teal Pool.

Grey Squirrel keeping well clear of the Stoat below!
The Ted Jury Hide had produced a couple of Stonechat on Tuesday, one of which I managed to locate during a guided walk for the Rugby Gardeners Guild and today yielded a couple of Kestrel and a Stoat, which wasn't very obliging when I attempted to get a photograph!

Highly cropped record of today's Jack Snipe at Brandon.
I met up with Alan Boddington when I arrived back at the East Marsh Hide and it was also great to see Alvin Burton out and about too. Alan called a Snipe across on Wigeon Bank and immediately the constant bobbing alerted us to the first Jack Snipe of the autumn, which was still showing quite well when I departed a short time later.

First Golden Plover of the autumn for me.
In the late afternoon back at the marina I was alerted to the calls of Golden Plover in close proximity while chatting with one of the neighbors. A quick peek at the adjacent field gave up eleven birds feeding in among a group of Starlings.