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!