Tuesday, December 29, 2015

RSPB Frampton Marsh

With Dee and I spending the rest of the year in our rented cottage in Lincolnshire its a perfect opportunity to spend a few days birding before our friends arrive for our New Year celebrations!

RSPB Frampton Marsh is one of our favourite reserves and today the weather was just perfect. Unlike my last visit, when the water levels were extremely low, today was completely the opposite and indeed the shear amount of birds across the reserve was astonishing. Brent Geese were well supported along with Pink-footed Geese and 1000s of Wigeon along with Teal and smaller counts of Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pintail, Shoveler & Shelduck. A first winter drake Scaup could easily be observed, mostly asleep, from the Reedbed Hide.

Waders were well represented too with a large number of Ruff, Lapwings in the 1000s and Dunlin, Curlew, (2) Spotted Redshank, Little Egret and Avocet also recorded. Strangely, not a single Golden Plover to be found! Our first attempt to locate a Grey Phalarope on the flood marsh proved fruitless but thankfully a drive down to the sea-wall before departing late afternoon was a success, thanks to a group of Yorkshire birders. Some distant views of a Peregrine enjoying it's prey and along the sea-bank both Marsh Harrier and 'Ringtail' Hen Harrier before more views of the Peregrine, this time in flight.

Other highlights included Corn Bunting along the Reedbed Trail and some stunning views of a Merlin hunting from the Visitor Centre, this while enjoying a well earned cuppa!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Diary Entry #7

Managed a walk around Napton Reservoir, which is actually bursting at the seams, in the early afternoon. A breezy visit but you cant complain when its a balmy 14C in December!

Pochard - One of five at Napton today!
Thousands of Gulls once again with many also taking advantage of the sodden fields and a small selection of waterfowl along with the usual Coot-fest: (3) Wigeon, (3) Gadwall, (5) Pochard and 100+ Tufted Duck. A couple of Great Crested Grebes also present and a Water Rail was calling from the reedbed.

Fieldfare's  - Always a job to get one on camera! 
A couple of 'cronking' Ravens overhead and around the car parking area Fieldfare, Redwing and even a Bullfinch making light work of the remaining sloe berry.

Saddened to see that the land owner has stripped the field of some superb habitat!
Finally a walk through the kissing gates came up with a surprise in the 2nd field when I was sad to find that the land owner has completely stripped and flattened some superb habitat!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Diary Entry #6

Visiting friends in Devon this weekend gave me a short window of opportunity to visit RSPB Bowling Green Marsh. I managed a few hours Sunday morning in very gloomy but mild conditions.

One of a trio of Mistle Thrush which entertained while in the hide!
As you would imagine one of the highlights was the 1000s of Black-tailed Godwits which frequent the site in autumn and winter. Brent Geese were also in good numbers with many feeding on the fields adjacent to the bird hide. Three Mistle Thrush entertained from the comfort of the hide, Little Egret and the usual wildfowl could be found, including several large flocks of Wigeon. On the Saturday an American Wigeon was reported in among the many Eurasian, but sadly the bird had gone AWOL during my visit.

Spotted Redshank from the boardwalk overlooking the top end of the Exe Estuary!
Probably the bird of the day was a Spotted Redshank, which offered some good photo opportunities from the boardwalk which overlooks the Exe estuary, unfortunately not helped by the gloomy conditions. Other Waders included: Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Avocet and double figure Grey Plover.

** Thanks for emails regarding RBN: I've currently withdrawn the Rare Bird Alert Twitter feed from the sidebar due to the suspension of the service by the team. Hopefully they will return soon and if so I'll reinstate the feed.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Diary Entry #5

For some unknown reason I didn't wake this morning until shortly after 10.30am and while enjoying a wake up coffee at the computer noticed via Twitter that a drake Smew had arrived at Draycote Water.

Great Northern Diver off Saddle Bank
On arrival a quick call to Richard Mays, who I noticed at Farnborough Spit had me walking clockwise passed the sailing club and along Hensborough Bank. This produced a couple of Dunlin, which flew past towards Rainbow Corner. I stopped for a catch up with Bob Hazell & Keith Foster who were heading back to the centre before moving on. A couple of Great Northern Divers were off Saddle Bank, including the poor bird which has a fish hook stuck in it!

Gorgeous Drake Smew close in off Draycote Bank
Along Barn Bank I connected with at least a half dozen Goosander and a ♀Pintail was hanging around the Inlet. The star of the show of course had to be this mornings new arrival, a stunning drake Smew! I located him along Draycote Bank, thanks to Richard, Bob & Keith's information and patiently waited for him to come quite close, really inquisitive little birds I always feel. Sure enough he duly obliged and the canon SX50 went to work in the glorious sunshine.

Little Egret at 'The Inlet'
Having filled my boots, so to speak, I headed back to the car park but not before spending a short time photographing a Little Egret at 'The Inlet'. As I passed back around Rainbow Corner a couple of Goldcrest were calling and as I searched for the calls a cracking Blackcap appeared along with several Long-tailed Tits.

Drake Smew - Definitely the bird of the day!
An excellent couple of hours in glorious sunshine and a mention also for the equally as splendid Goldeneye's, they too looking rather gorgeous!!

Friday, December 04, 2015

Diary Entry #4

As I stood patiently overlooking Alban's Reedbed (formerly Newlands) at Brandon Marsh this morning I had a rush of déjà vu! In fact at one time I considered the notion of simply writing a carbon copy of last weeks Friday blog entry and save time! However, there was indeed a marked difference, no Starlings! Having witnessed an amazing departure just before dawn a week ago of some 4,000 birds, today there were none!! A mystery of nature it would seem.

Comet Catalina - Apparently viewable with binoculars
There was some benefits to freezing me toes off with nothing to show and this was to be found high in the heavens. A gorgeous waning moon with Jupiter slightly above and Venus shimmering below. I even made an attempt at finding Comet Catalina but in vain.

Goldeneye - Showing well in front of East Marsh Hide
Notables today around the pools were a single Little Egret, (27) Wigeon and a pair of Goldeneye, the male looking stunning in the bright morning sunshine, yes sunshine!! Lots of Kingfisher activity to please the photographers but I've had better visits.

Yellowhammer at the marina.
Closer to home (3) Tree Sparrows on the feeders yesterday is a welcome return and the odd Yellowhammer around the doggie walking field, (32) Pied Wagtails in the roost yesterday evening.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Diary Entry #3

Any Gull fanatics would have been in their element this morning at Napton Reservoir with 100s to choice from. I did scan for a short while before my patience ran out and didn't manage to come up with anything unusual, at least I think I didn't, gulls are not my forte!

Napton Reservoir - A haven for Gulls this morning.
Plenty of Tufted Duck, along with a brace of drake Pochard, single ♀Goldeneye and a pair of Shoveler, these the only waterfowl of note, a single Snipe flew through the reedbed.

Lesser Redpoll - On among the flock of circa 50
Brandon Marsh next and as I turned off Brandon Lane a couple of Raven passed over the top reedbed. I arrived into the Baldwin Hide just in time to see a drake Goosander depart. The chap next to me mentioned it had been around for the last hour. A dozen Wigeon, two drake Goldeneye and a single female were the only other waterfowl of note among the usual selection. A huge mixed flock of Siskin/Redpoll were feeding in the alder at the end of the River Pool path. Some stonking birds among them, although the above photo doesn't do them justice! While here a Willow Tit was calling and showing from time to time.

Jay - Finally snapped him after some fun and games!
At East Marsh Hide a Water Rail made a dart across the open space in front and from my position a Peregrine was perched up in the owl box tree over on Alban's Reedbed (formerly Newlands). Naturally by the time I reached the Ted Jury Hide for a photo, the bird had moved on. Not far I suspect with several eruptions from East Marsh Pool during my stay! Little else of note, including at Carlton Hide and so I made my way around to Horsetail Glade, where I enjoyed playing hide and seek with a cheeky Jay. Got him in the end though! My love of Jay's probably goes back to my childhood, when I nursed an injured bird back to health over several weeks locked away in my bedroom, much to mums disgust. Both Nuthatch and Treecreeper in Horsetail before I moved on.

Redwing - The last remaining berries!
Finally a walk around the Farm Field and Top Reedbed and here many Fieldfare and Redwing. Mostly in the leaf litter, having almost depleted the berry stocks around the reserve.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Draycote Water

I'd only intended to spend a quick hour at Draycote Water this morning but having first bumped into Bob Lee and Geoff Hood, followed later by Bob Hazell I didn't get away until shortly after 2pm. An initial walk to Farborough Spit yielded many Tufted Duck, Little and Great Crested Grebe, plus a count of (16) Wigeon. Along the bank (6) Meadow Pipit and small numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare in the hawthorn below, these along with Skylark, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll over.

Great Norther Diver showing well along Hensborough Bank.
Having tracked back to the centre I decided to continue on-wards and from here the birding was excellent, with  at least three Great Northern Divers (@bobhazell), although I only managed two personally. Both mine seen along Hensborough Bank and Rainbow Corner. There were around a dozen or so Goosander and (5) Pochard were among the many Tufted Duck huddled in at Rainbow.

Scaup having a major preen!
The feeders had plenty of Tree Sparrows attending and in the field just to the rear, where the crop remains at least (30) Yellowhammers, along with Reed Bunting and Linnet. The Scaup was located pretty close in along Draycote Bank, where we met up with Bob Hazell.

Goosander - Plenty to be found today!
An about turn and as we headed back to the car park more Goosander and a ♀Pintail was near the inlet. More views of Great Northern Diver ended a nice outing!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Diary Entry #2

As I walked down to the marina parking area shortly before 6.30am this morning our now resident Little Owl was calling somewhere off towards Napton Reservoir. I decided to head for Brandon Marsh at first light in the hope of connecting with the Short-eared Owl seen on Tuesday evening by Alan Boddington.

I was in position at Alban's bench just after seven, this spot probably offers the best viewing over the reedbed, particularly if you stand on the bench, sorry Alban if you were looking down on me! As I waited in the gloom various numbers of Fieldfare, Redwing, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll passed overhead. Two Cetti's Warbler were calling, plus a distant Water Rail and large groups of Gulls were heading through, probably from the Draycote roost. At almost exactly 7.30am a massive flock of Starling possibly 3/4,000 rose from the central reedbed and two Sparrowhawk attacked almost immediately. A magnificent sight (and sound) and after a matter of moments the flock had dispersed with a brief murmuration, both Sparrowhawks leaving empty handed! Sadly no Owls or indeed Bittern, which is another possibility at this time of day, but the Starlings were certainly worth the effort.

East Marsh Pool notables were ♂♀Goldeneye (11) Wigeon and the ♂Pintail was asleep as usual on the end of Redshank Island. A spell in the Carlton Hide with Bob Lee in search of Bearded Tit proved half effective, we heard them on a few occasions but never managed to connect, the wind increasing all the while. A Willow Tit was prominent on several occasions by the Carlton Ditch and here good views of Lesser Redpoll and a Chiffchaff made a brief appearance, looking amazingly yellow in the low sunlight.

Finally a walk around Farm Field and the Top Reedbed inadvertently flushed my first Woodcock of the season and a total of (5) Green Woodpeckers by the time I'd completed the circuit was noteworthy.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Eldernell & Ouse Washes

At short notice I managed to secure the 'Trust's minibus for a final 'Away-Day' of the year for the Brandon Marsh volunteers. In fact it was almost a year to the day that we'd visited RSPB Ouse Washes, but before heading there we took a few hours out to visit Eldernell, Red Kite on route.

Common Buzzard - Several at Eldernell
We arrived shortly after 9am, after stopping off for our customary breakfast at Peterborough services, the temperature still below zero but a calm and bright start. As we parked up (4) Snipe took flight and a Common Buzzard was perched on the fence just along from the car park. It wasn't long before more Buzzards were located along with Red Kite and Marsh Harrier, probably three females in total. After initial scans from the bridge, where a Kingfisher passed underneath, we decided to stretch the legs and take a walk along the channel. A brace of Crane were located at distance along the far bank and (3) Whoopers Swans flew through. Other species of note during our stay included Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit, Lesser Redpoll over, plus Fieldfare and Redwing in the surrounding hawthorn. Sadly, despite being an excellent area neither Barn Owl or Short-eared Owl were located.

Just a fraction of the huge flock of Whooper Swans!
On route to RSPB Ouse Washes a huge flock of Swans, circa 400 took the eye and after pulling over to investigate all seemed to be Whooper Swans, although an in depth observation may well have yielded Bewick's within, we failed to find a single one during our brief stay!

Tree Sparrows - always a pleasure to see!
We arrived at the RSPB centre at Ouse Washes around midday and a look at the feeders produced House Sparrow, along with four Tree Sparrows. From here we moved south to have lunch at Welches Dam Hide and along with a selection of water fowl, which included Pintail, a Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank were also noted.

Whooper Swan on the washes!
After lunch the team split, with a few of us opting to continue south, others north and by the time we'd reached the second hide along this stretch a pair of Stonechat and one or two Skylarks passing overhead had been recorded. A nice find in this hide in the form of a Water Pipit and three Whooper Swans passing close by offered a nice photo opportunity. One of the many elongated islands produced over (30) Snipe busily feeding and also well worth a mention was the immense movements of Woodpigeons during the course of the day, literally in their thousands!

Short-eared Owl - Excellent record shot in poor light from John Osbourne!
As the light began to fade we spent a good while in the furthermost hide along this stretch, where a Peregrine provided excellent entertainment, this before a stunning ♂Marsh Harrier took the limelight! As if this couldn't be overshadowed our patience paid off when finally a Short-eared Owl made an appearance, in fact we may well have seen two, when the same or different bird was seen quartering on the opposite side of the channel as we made our way back!

Species Seen:

Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Graylag Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Pheasant, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine, Water Rail (H), Moorhen, Coot, Common Crane, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Short-eared Owl, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Diary Entry #1

Been considering a few ideas over the last few weeks about taking the blog forward. As my follower would know I usually post a full account of my visits to various reserves and try to post daily when I'm on a birding holiday. This inevitable causes long gaps in posting, particularly at this time of year or if its been a quiet time locally. So I've decided, as well as my full accounts, to post a short diary update if my day includes any kind of birding in the hope that the continuity of the blog will be maintained! Probably bore the pants off you but I'll give it a go!

For example today's diary entry would consist of the following: 

Spent an hour this afternoon searching for the roosting spot of our local Little Owl. This guy is now seen quite regularly, mostly at dusk perched on one of the telephone poles around the marina, no joy thus far but I've heard him calling again this evening. I really must make the effort to check the bespoke Little Owl box I installed in the adjacent field, which Lord Shuckburgh finally gave permission for last year. 

After seeing a tweet regarding five Whooper Swans at Napton Reservoir posted by @Neilduggan80 early afternoon I shot around for a look. Five minutes by car but wouldn't it be great to have direct access from the marina, sadly on the wrong side of the canal. No sign when I arrived shortly after 2pm, although there was a sizable Starling flock beginning to appear which made the journey worthwhile!

Early start tomorrow! Managed to secure the 'Trusts' minibus at short notice for a day trip with the Brandon Marsh team.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Final Day!

Our last full day in Ireland was spent exploring more of the amazing coastline around the Dingle Peninsula, venturing around as far as Ballyheigue in the north. Although our holiday has not been predominantly about the birding naturally it's played its part and we've managed most of the species we expected to see, along with a few bonus species like Lesser Scaup, Glossy IbisGull-billed Tern, Spoonbill and Black Redstart.

1st winter Little Gull a Blennerville which Dee managed with the Canon SX50 
In fact with a little shopping to complete in Tralee this afternoon we took the opportunity for another look at the Gull-billed Tern at Blennerville lock gates. Also present during our short stay were a couple of Mediterranean Gulls and a striking 1st winter Little Gull.

Another stunning Stonechat - Seemed to be present on every post or bush!
We've had a great time during the last week and Dee seems to have developed a taste for Guinness, they say it tastes better in Ireland so it'll be interesting when we get back as to whether the trend will continue. The weather has been extremely kind, its rained heavily during our stay but always during the night, making way for glorious sunny warm days. The scenery has been stunning and the people, by reputation have been extremely friendly.

Species Seen:

Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Brent Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck, Lesser Scaup, Greater Scaup, Common Scoter, Fulmar, Red-throated Loon, Great Northern Loon, Little Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Skua Sp. Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Little Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Black Guillemot, Guillemot, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Black RedstartStonechat, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Blackcap, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jackdaw, Red-billed Chough, Rook, Hooded Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Lough Gill

After heavy overnight rain, our first since arriving, the cloud cleared to produce a glorious autumnal day. Around 2km from our cottage lies Lough Gill, a large shallow lake with alkaline waters. Reports over recent weeks have included both Lesser Scaup and Glossy Ibis, so Dee and I thought we'd spend the morning exploring the area!

View of Lough Gill from the Jetty!
It's actually quite difficult to get close to the Lough, with the exception of the east-side jetty so we spent a little time scoping from various spots along the route. South of the Lough we discovered 35 Whooper Swans feeding in a flooded field, our first of the Autumn and also not mentioned thus far in my posts, the shear numbers of Stonechat here, with one it would seem around every corner. After reaching the jetty it wasn't long before we connected with the Lesser Scaup, in among a group of Tufted Duck and apparently this particular bird has been returning to winter here since 2011. As we continued to scan a couple of Otters came out into the open water before disappearing back into the reedbed and several Gadwall along with three Little Grebe were also noted. After a long wait two Glossy Ibis were spotted in flight, dropping into an area across from the jetty near the sand dunes. As we tried to relocate a large raptor caught the eye, this turned out to be a ringtail Hen Harrier, our first encounter with any large raptors since arriving.

One of a large number of Curlew to be found around the area!
From here we headed off to 'Rough Point' a small stony beach near Ballycurrane, apparently quite good for Purple Sandpiper in winter. A little early it would seem as we dipped on the sandpipers but managed an excellent haul of waders which included some large flocks of Sanderling and also of note a flock of 15 Bar-tailed Godwit. All the usual waders were also encountered, including huge numbers of Curlew and a real treat in the form of two Red-billed Chough, which were feeding next to the roadside. From here we headed off for a late lunch in Tralee.

Red-billed Chough - Always a treat to see!

We've been extremely lucky with the weather thus far! Another 18C today

Another Chough photo to end!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Exploring Co.Kerry

Having never been birding before in Ireland I wasn't sure what to expect, particularly down in the south-west and County Kerry. With habitat such as estuary, bog, fen and mountain ranges it's hard to believe that species such as Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and  Barn Owls for example are extremely scarce! In fact the most likely Owl you'll come across in this neck of the woods is a Long-eared Owl, and even then being almost completely nocturnal your best chance of seeing one is in your car headlamps! Having said that it's nice to see other species such as Red-billed Chough and Hooded Crow on our travels thus far.

Two Black Redstart on our travels today at Baile an nGall
After breakfast, where once again I spent time going through rafts of Common Scoter offshore Dee and I continued exploring the amazing coastline, coves and bays. We had a nice find at Baile an nGall, when a couple of Black Redstarts were showing very well. With the sea still almost flat calm there was little movement but once again we came across a couple of Great Northern Loon. At one stage while walking along a cliff top we heard the unmistakable calls of Whooper Swans but never quite managed to connect.

Nice to see lots of Greenshank - Still looking for those yellow legs!!

Dee close up and personal with this gorgeous Kestrel!

Rock Pipits are a constant companion!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

County Kerry Ireland

As tradition has it Dee and I always spend her birthday on dry land and more often than not its usually in a remote cottage in Scotland. However, this year we decided on southern Ireland, with two days sightseeing in Dublin and then on to our cottage in Co. Kerry on the south-west coast. As far as Dublin is concerned, I can highly recommend a weekend during Halloween, where the whole city seems to be in fancy dress and the atmosphere is simply wicked!

View from the cottage overlooking Brandon Bay, Co. Kerry Ireland
On Sunday we picked up our hire car and drove the four hours or so down to County Kerry to our cottage for the week based near Castlegregory and Lough Gill. The weather thus far has been stunning, with temperatures reaching a barmy 20C.

Over breakfast each morning rafts of Common Scoter can easily be scoped from the bay window and this morning a real treat, with a large pod of Dolphins passing quite close in. Despite my efforts no surprises within the Scoter numbers but a ♂Scaup was easily picked out.

Oystercatchers a plenty!
Our first few days have been spent exploring the local coves and shoreline and we even managed to see a long staying Gull-billed Tern, which has been regularly seen at Blennerville lock gates near Tralee. Divers, or Loons as I prefer seem to be arriving in small numbers and we've managed several Great Northern and the odd Red-throated. Thousands of Oystercatchers along the beaches with Greenshank, Redshank, Turnstone, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and some large flocks of Golden Plover, Little Egrets roam in sixes and sevens!

Black Guillemot in Dingle Bay!
With calm winds sea watching hasn't yielded anything of note as yet, with the exception of a few distant Gannet. Both Guillemot and Black Guillemot can often be found on the water and Shag are quite common to the area. The nearby Lough Gill plays host to Whooper Swans in the winter months but it would seem that like the UK their running late. Light-bellied Brent Geese on the other hand can be found in descent numbers currently.

A few Rock Pipits to be found around the harbour at Dingle
A visit to Dingle this afternoon and a change in the weather with the glorious sunshine giving way to overcast laden skies. A walk around the bay produced little in calm conditions but a couple of Rock Pipits and a nearby Black Guillemot gave us a few photo opportunities.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Norfolk Again

Having felt a little frustrated at missing out on a few decent species during Mondays Norfolk visit with the Brandon Marsh team I decided on a return visit today, arriving at Salthouse just after 8.30am. Quite a gloomy start with a very stiff offshore breeze and waves crashing over the shingle. I battled my way around to the back of Granborough Hill but despite the relatively sheltered environment the best I could manage was a single Stonechat and several Meadow Pipits on the fencing, nothing except Goldcrest within the bushes. With high tide imminent the sea was almost up to the hill when I peered over the top but with the strong winds lots of Gannets were performing quite close in, four Guillemot, Razorbill and a couple of Red-throated Divers also passed through during my stay. As I arrived back at the car a bird being mobbed by a number of Corvids coming in across the hills turned out to be a Short-eared Owl, which flew high towards Cley still being mobbed.

One of a dozen or so Brambling at Walsey Hills
A brief stop at the Walsey Hills reserve to check out the track down to the hide yielded almost immediately, with at least a dozen Brambling, plus Chiffchaff, several Goldcrest and Coat Tit around the feeders. When I arrived back to the car I flushed a Greenshank off the pool which was feeding quite close in. Next stop 'Camp Site' Car park and after parking up I wandered along the track as far as the whirligig at Stiffkey. I bumped into a number of other birders who were in search of a reported Great Grey Shrike but nobody I spoke to had actually seen it, me included! A Peregrine over and tons more Goldcrest, plus a nice flock of Brent Geese feeding close in were worth the effort.

Best I could manage of the Pallas's Warbler despite it showing quite well!
With no requirement for one I don't carry a pager and so rely on my Birdguides App for my information but of course this relies on a phone signal, non existent here on the Norfolk coast it would seem!  Therefore being mostly in the dark and relying entirely on word of mouth I decided, having heard so many reports that from here on the best plan of action was to park up at Lady Anne's Drive and take the walk through to Wells Wood. However, an Isabelline Shrike was reported along the east track so I decided to tackle this first and maybe even have another attempt at the Red-flanked Bluetail, so frustrating on Monday's visit. As it worked out the Shrike was sitting up beautifully when I arrived offering some excellent views, my second in a week! The Bluetail of course was a different matter. When I arrived I was quite surprised to find few birders on site, this until I discovered that the viewing area had moved almost 180 degrees to the rear of where I was standing on Monday! I can actually claim to have had a half decent view this time around, albeit fleeting but I'm prepared to give it the 'tick'. As it turned out I needn't have spent the time and effort as I got a better view of a second bird later at the drinking pool in Well Wood!

Treecreeper - Good job I'm not looking for the perfect image!
Returning to my original plan to walk through to Wells Wood it wasn't long before I discovered a group on birders on a mission. This was the Pallas's Warbler and joining the enthusiastic and very helpful group it wasn't long before I had the little beauty in the bins, I even managed a record shot, although I think the ISO was on something like 3200! Full of beans I continued on and like last Monday every tree was dripping Goldcrests. I paused every so often to check out a number of 'Tit flocks' moving through and finally it happened! There among them a Yellow-browed Warbler, my only sighting this autumn after searching a million 'Tit flocks' and I was glad to get that monkey off my back. It didn't help though when the lady who'd appeared next to me told me she'd managed three today!

A terrific days birding and I was happy with my lot, despite missing out on more great species. I can understand the buzz of 'Twitching' when it's on a day like today but talking to a chap who had spent four hours this morning after the one bird, simply for the 'Tick' I still don't believe it's for me.

Species Seen:

Mute Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Egyptian Goose, Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Red-throated Diver, Little Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Guillemot, Razorbill, Wood Pigeon, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Red-flanked Bluetail, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Redwing, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Yellow-browed Warbler, Pallas's Warbler, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit , Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Isabelline Shrike, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Brandon Marsh Wednesday

Spent the morning and early afternoon once more trolling the woods, willow and hawthorn around the reserve. What little time I did spend in the hides produced a ♀Pintail, Green Sandpiper and a single Snipe, this along with the usual waterfowl including a good number of Wigeon.

Increase in Redpoll around Brandon today!
Several flocks of Long-tailed Tits produced several Goldcrest, (2) Chiffchaff and a single Willow Tit near Carlton ditch, but unfortunately nothing more exciting. New Hare Covert and Horsetail Glade held (2) Nuthatch and (3) Treecreeper, plus a single Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Stonechat once again on Farm Field
Along the bund that runs from the 'Tip' area to Farm Field a number of Redwing were feeding on the hawthorn and among these at least three Fieldfare took flight. Although I can't be certain a bird flushed that crashed through the vegetation as I passed through the aforementioned bund may well have been a Woodcock. A single Stonechat remains on the Farm Filed. Several Skylark moving through overhead along with more Thrush flocks as the cloud cover increased and a definite marked increase in Redpoll around the reserve!

Omitted from original post:

Two Grey Wagtail and a single Pied Wagtail feeding from the roof of the concrete works opposite the volunteers car park!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Brandon Away-Day

Another chance to borrow the Warwickshire Wildlife Trusts minibus and with the Norfolk coast currently enjoying a huge influx of migrants in easterly winds there was only one place to be. With a dozen of the Brandon Marsh Team on-board we decided that our first port of call would be Beeston Common for the showy Isabelline Shrike, Red Kite on route.

After picking up Pete Worthy, who was already in Norfolk at the A148 roundabout we continued on for Beeston. However, early news of a Great Grey Shrike sighting at Little Snoring Airfield was well timed and a simple short diversion. Sadly with little information on the precise whereabouts and a couple of tractors at work around the airfield we were not surprised to dip on this one. However, my first Redwing of this autumn was located here thanks to Keith Barnsley and a fly over Grey Wagtail before moving on were something a least.

Isabelline Shrike at Beeston Common - Although very showy I felt that I could have done a lot better with the camera! Maybe this guy was simply too good to take my eyes off!
The Isabelline Shrike was quite a different matter and immediately on arrival a very showy bird was located offering stunning views, this despite the many visitors in close proximity! We spent a good half hour here before moving on, not managing to connect with a Yellow-browed Warbler also reported here, but Siskin and Lesser Redpoll were additions to the day list.

Lots of Meadow Pipit around Granborough Hill
Next stop Granborough Hill, an area I'm always tempted to search at this time of year. Many Skylark on the surrounding marshland, along with Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Snipe and Curlew but despite picking up nothing out of the ordinary what was apparent was the number of Goldcrest in the area. The sea was particularly quiet with a Diver Sp. offshore and back at the minibus for lunch, Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff and Redshank in the surrounding pools, along with a Stonechat on the fence.

When news came through of a whole host of goodies at Holkham Pines the next destination was sorted and we decided to forego a visit to Cley for the reported White-rumped Sandpiper and head on through. As we turned into Lady Anne's Drive to park up I unfortunately missed a perched Little Owl seen by some of the team and frustratingly not called until too late! After parking up the  long walk down for a Red-flanked Bluetail produced superb views of two Red Kite overhead. Goldcrests, as mentioned earlier seemed to be in every tree, Migrant Hawker dragonfly were in good numbers and four Little Grebe in the 'Salthole' before finally reaching the 'crosstracks', the site of the Bluetail.

Goldcrests, Goldcrests everywhere!
With little experience of these so called 'twitches' I much prefer to spend my time on the move just enjoying the birding, when I saw at least 50 individuals huddled several yards into the trees I knew it wasn't for me! That said I did have a brief look but for someone who even hates queuing, peering through the dark forest at fallen lichen covered branches for a nano seconds view, even of a stunning bird such as this simply doesn't appeal. I'm glad to say that a little further on down the track my timing was impeccable, when I had some excellent, albeit brief views of a Radde's Warbler. Now if all 'twitches' were like that!! No sign of a Dusky Warbler also reported during our stay and while searching the surrounding scrub area for Ring Ouzel distant skeins of Pink-footed Geese were constantly on the move. Stonechat, Red Kite, Common Buzzard and Redwing were also noted.

Spotted Redshank - First time I've witnessed them feeding on the water so close in!
With the day fading fast (where did that go) our final destination was RSPB Titchwell and despite leaving sunny conditions at Holkham by the time we arrived a bitterly cold wind had developed and the sky had clouded over, dashing any hopes of a decent sunset. The highlights here were a couple of Common Scoter offshore, along with the usual selection of waders, which included some large flocks of Golden Plover, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit , plus two Spotted Redshank. While watching the harrier roost at dusk two Water Rail appeared in the gloom below, 37 Little Egret were on the dead trees and a final tally of seven Marsh Harrier and two 'Ringtail' Hen Harriers were a great finish as spots of rain began to fall.

Although an excellent days birding with two cracking species in the bag I can't help feeling a little disappointed having not covered more ground and connected with some of our target birds for the day. That said the fish and chips on route home were superb and the company as ever most entertaining!

Species Seen:
Mute Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Egyptian Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Common Scoter, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Ruff, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler (H), Chiffchaff, Radde's Warbler, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit (H), Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper (H), Isabelline Shrike, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Redpoll, Goldfinch, Siskin, Reed Bunting,