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.