Thursday, December 29, 2016

Diary Update #57~2016

A stop off at Eldernell, Cambridgeshire on route to Norfolk for a few days really paid off today! According to the weather forecast we should have encountered dense fog on route but what transpired was glorious wall to wall sunshine. Even when we arrived at RSPB Titchwell in the late afternoon, not a sign of any fog!

One of four Short-eared Owl today!
Almost immediately on arrival at Eldernell a Short-eared Owl was quartering the area directly in front of the car park. Within minutes the count was up to four, all showing brilliantly. We spent ages watching, the birds occasionally fighting with each other for territory and indeed seeing off a Marsh Harrier and Buzzard on one occasion.

Short-eared Owl
Across in the distance nine Crane in flight and after dropping down among others, an amazing count of at least twenty birds. Several Fieldfare were ground feeding, a single Stonechat and at least three Kestrel! Out among the many sheep a bird I first thought to be a Little Egret turned out to be a Cattle Egret once in the scope, a bird which I think has been hanging about now for a while!

Record shot: Cattle Egret, Eldernell!
RSPB Titchwell next, arriving about an hour before sunset and setting off straight away for the beach. With the sun setting and the tide turning we managed a half hour sea watching. This produced Goldeneye, several large rafts of Common Scoter, two Velvet Scoter within but little else! On route back to the car a stop for the Marsh Harrier roost, with over twenty during our stay and just prior to leaving the footpath a Woodcock.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

To my reader a very Merry Christmas! 

I promise to re-ignite my passion for blogging in 2017!!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Diary Update #56/2016

It seems that over the past few weeks personal highlights have come nearer to home and have included a rare and unexpected Bittern sighting at Napton Reservoir on November 29th. A bird which only appeared to have hung around for one day, with no reports since, at least to my knowledge!

Better views of Bearded Tits, once again at Napton Reservoir and some truly amazing Starling Murmurations at the the marina, finally captured on my Iphone after several attempts.

Speaking of the marina, an encounter of the blurred kind this evening with a stunning Merlin perched on one of the pylons just before sunset. A bonus perhaps of having so many Starlings roosting nearby!

A nice encounter with this Merlin at the marina this evening!
Brandon Marsh still remains a little disappointing with the best for me more recently a couple of excellent Peregrine passes, plus a brace of Woodcock, which I've inadvertently flushed while completing conservation works.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Norfolk Dawn till Dusk!

On a whim I decided to head off to the Norfolk coast on Wednesday! The weather looked good after recent storms and judging by recent reports the sea watching, one of my favourite birding pass times, was throwing up some excellent results.

Stonechat ~ Always one posing for a photo at Salthouse!
I began at Salthouse and arrived after a three hour drive at the Beach Road car park (or whats left of it after the 2013 flood) shortly after sunrise. Despite passing through some serious fog on route I was amazed to find an almost clear sky and good visibility! Early dog walkers were out in force, mostly controlled but I was aggrieved to see a Spaniel bounding across the marsh flushing everything in sight, it's idiotic owner blowing frantically on her dog whistle, the dog paying absolutely no notice! I won't publish my comments!

Snow Bunting ~ always brightens the day when these are around!
Notwithstanding my first thought was to check offshore and here at least four Red-throated Divers were found, impossible to miss almost glowing in the low sunlight. Good numbers of Gannet, both adult and juvenile passing through during my initial scans and a single Guillemot and Great Crested Grebe on the water. I walked west across the shingle towards whats known as 'Little Eye' and caught site of at least thirty or so Snow Bunting feeding on the shingle. On the fences close by Linnet, Meadow PipitReed Bunting and a pair of Stonechat, plus over towards the edge of the pools an excellent count of five Shore Larks, a great start to the day.

After a brew up I drove a little further around the A149 towards Cley, parking up at Walsey Hills NR. Crossing over I walked the East Bank passing Serpentine and Arnold's Marsh before another scan offshore. The walk down to the beach produced at least twenty or so Bearded Tit along the reed bed, the marsh and pools holding a selection of wildfowl and waders. The sea once again produced, with at least another half dozen Red-throated Divers passing through and more Gannets.

A stop for lunch at Cley beach car park in glorious sunshine and yet another sea watch. Here Red-throated Diver once again, they seemed constant today but two additions to the day list. Firstly a Velvet Scoter, which flew through with a group of Common Scoter and then a single Little Auk, which settled on the sea for a short period before heading off.

Pink-footed Geese
My final destination was RSPB Titchwell but I stopped for a look at the Pink-footed Geese at Holkham. Plenty to search through, but sadly nothing unusual among the flocks, although while scanning three Grey Partridge were a nice addition.

I spent the rest of the day enjoying Titchwell and managed to catch the high tide just before 14:30hrs. Before heading straight down to the beach a scan of the fresh marsh for Water Pipit was successful, but the bird was way to the back of the dry pool. A Greenshank was also a late bonus! The sea as hoped for offered rich pickings and an enjoyable 90 minutes with: (4) Velvet Scoter, (5) Long-tailed Duck, plus single Red-necked Grebe and Great Northern Diver plus various counts of Red-breasted Merganser, Common Scoter, Great Crested Grebe and Goldeneye, plus a fly by Little Gull.

An excellent day out ended with the Harrier roost and despite not connecting with any Hen Harriers, the sheer amount of Marsh Harriers coming in was a sight to behold!!

Species Seen:

Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Grey Partridge, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Little Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Little Gull, Little Auk, Guillemot, Wood Pigeon, Kingfisher, Skylark, Shore Lark, Water Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Bearded Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting, Snow Bunting

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Diary Update #55

Visits to Brandon Marsh Sunday and today, plus a stop off at Draycote Water on route home to catch up with Great Northern Diver.

Goldeneye ~ 2 Males and this female at Brandon on Sunday!
Sunday was the best of the two visits and yielded a good selection of wildfowl which included of note: Shelduck, (3) Goosander, (3) Goldeneye, (2) Pochard (160) Wigeon, (65) Teal and a good number of Shoveler, which went uncounted! Other notables included (2) Little Egret, Grey Wagtail and various counts of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Redwing and Fieldfare.

Caspian Gull ~ The perfect opportunity to improve your ID skills!
A large number of Gulls on site included (55) Lesser Blacked-backed Gull but the stars had to be Yellow-legged Gull and Caspian Gull. I'm not a gull man myself but when you have a verified Caspian Gull on site its a perfect opportunity to study a bird that I'm totally unfamiliar with! In fact most of the Brandon regulars, apart from one or two, would say the same and this is perhaps why I'm certain the species is under-recorded here.

Caspian Gull ~ Alternative view!
Todays visit to Brandon was pretty dire! With the torrential rain over the past few days the reserve is beginning to flood, although we got off lightly with Storm Angus and so I don't think we'll suffer too much disruption.

A Loon in gloom! ~ Great Northern Diver at Draycote today!
On route home today I stopped off at Draycote Water to see if I could catch up with at least one of the three reported Great Northern Divers. As it happens it wasn't to much of a stress as I spotted Mr Draycote, Bob Hazell on top of Farborough Bank when I arrived. Bob was photographing a couple of Dunlin and as we were catching up on the gossip one of the divers was showing nicely just off the bank.

Yellow-legged Gull ~ A chance to check out the wing structure!

Yellow-legged and Caspian Gull together!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Scotland 2016

Another excellent week in Scotland over and although the birding, particularly around the coastal areas was pretty quiet, we still managed to nail most of our target species. Leading on from Wednesday's post, by the end of the stay we'd completed a second visit to WWT Caerlaverock, a day around Luce Bay and Wigton, plus an afternoon at RSPB Loch Laven.

Great views across the Solway Firth at sunset and Barnacle Geese heading off to roost!
More Barnacle Geese heading off...
WWT Caerlaverock failed to produce any additional bird species from our previous visit but did include a couple of Roe Deer and along with the spectacular Barnacle Geese and Whooper Swans, Scaup, Green-winged Teal and male Hen Harrier were once again recorded.

Rock Pipit ~ A constant throughout our stay!
Our day around Luce Bay began at Auchenmal, where the A747 begins to run along the shoreline and offers great views across the area. Our first stop of many during our visit immediately produced a couple of Red-throated Loons and further scans revealed 50+ Common Scoter, Guillemot, Shag and (2) Red-breasted Merganser. No matter where we stopped Rock Pipits were a constant companion and with plenty of scrub in the surrounding areas a Stonechat would occasional pop up along the route. Several small groups of waders could be found and within Dunlin, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Curlew.

Another Waxwing encounter!
Three Ravens were also noted during the day and other species included Sparrowhawk. Tree Sparrow, Waxwing, Goldeneye, Goosander and while at Port William, where we stopped for lunch, Great Northern Loon and Merlin! Our day ended in fading light at Wigtown and despite a decent list a notable absentee was Pink-footed Goose, this area being of national importance to the species!

On Saturday we made our way across to Dunfirmline for a family celebration and stopped for a few hours at RSPB Loch Leven. Here we visited the three hides and although an enjoyable visit only managed to add Pink-footed Goose and Great Crested Grebe to our holiday list!

Species Seen:

Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Greenland White-fronted Goose, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Scaup, Tufted Duck, Eider Duck, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Green-winged Teal, Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Red-throated Loon, Great Northern Loon, Slavonian Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine, Merlin, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black Guillemot, Guillemot, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Dipper, Waxwing, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Midweek Update ~ Scotland

We're over halfway through our week here in south-west Scotland and last night the snow arrived, albeit at slightly higher levels.

View across the Solway Firth from Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve
On Monday we drove out to Stranraer and Port Patrick in the hope of some decent sea watching, unfortunately with light winds this proved disappointing. On route we stopped off at Loch Ryan and here single Slavonian Grebe and Eider, plus small groups of Teal and Wigeon. Two Little Egrets were an interesting sighting with not that many to the area in general. Gannet, Black Guillemot, Shag, Rock Pipit, Rock Dove, Stonechat, Grey Wagtail, Buzzard, Kestrel and Peregrine were the best of note at Corsewell but the excellent lunch in the Corsewell Lighthouse Hotel more than made up for the birding!

View from Corsewell Lighthouse Hotel!
We've visited a number of reserves throughout the local area too over the last few days which have included the Caerlavarock National Nature Reserve and the RSPB sites at Mersehead Nature Reserve and today Ken-Dee Marshes, the latter to catch up with Greenland White-fronted Geese, which regularly winter here.

Stonechat ~ NNR Caerlaverock
We took the 3 mile return walk, habitat includes woodland, grassland and marsh with a single hide and viewing platform. After a good search of the surrounding fields we managed thirteen White-fronted Geese in total, plus eleven Meadow PipitRed Squirrel and a selection of woodland species pictured below! Loch Ken itself proved pretty quiet overall with the only species of note 30+ Eurasian Teal and a brace of Heron. The area is also well know as the 'Galloway Kite Trail', which was set up following the successful re-introduction of Red Kites into Galloway after an absence of 130 years. We managed at least eight today, along with three Buzzard and two Raven.

Red Squirrel
After Ken-Dee reserve we stopped off in the picturesque village of New Galloway for coffee and cake. We parked next to the bridge along the high street which passes over Mill Burn, a fast running stream and while having a quick look over Dee suddenly spotted movement. A Dipper, which we watched briefly but unfortunately by the time I returned with the camera there was no further sign.

The instant before this Willow Tit was clobbered by a Coal Tit!
On Tuesday we visited Mersehead Nature Reserve and took the 2.5 mile coastal trail. Before setting off coffee in the centre, which has great views of the bird feeders and the reserve beyond. Here the highlight was a Weasel, which happily scurried around right in front of the window on several occasions. There are two hides and the track that leads down to the Bruaich Hide held Yellowhammer, Redwing, Fieldfare and Reed Bunting in the hedgerows. From the hide huge flocks of the Svalbard Barnacle Geese population, 30+ Pintail and good numbers of Wigeon and Teal. The tide flows out for miles here and so the walk along the beach area was pretty quiet, save for a small flock of Dunlin, three Ringed Plover within. Sleet started to fall as we headed back to the centre but the best was saved until last, a Merlin, perched on a post offering great scope views was well worth getting soaked for!


Great Spotted Woodpecker

Coal Tit
Willow Tit ~ Unscathed!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Sunday 'Twitch'

The last few days here in south-west Scotland have been spent enjoying the glorious, if not chilly weather and has even included a nearby 'twitch', Dee and I usually preferring to find our own birds.

Waxwings ~ Three of seven flighty birds
The unlikely 'twitch' took place on Sunday morning when we were informed that just 28 miles north in Moffat a small group of Waxwings were showing well. After breakfast we headed off and within the hour we were parked in the Old School car park, another lone birder also on site. Although unusually flighty we immediately spotted seven of these charismatic birds perched in the only tree in the car park. Within seconds they were off but after a short wait reappeared, this time in a bulging Rowan tree in the church grounds opposite.

Waxwing at Moffat
After enjoying the spectacle for nearly an hour and a coffee in the local coffee shop we headed off in search of Red Squirrels, one of Dee's favourite mammals.

We decided to check out Eskrigg Nature Reserve, which is located about 1.5 miles south-west of Lockerbie Town Centre, on the east side of South Turnmuir Plantation. Fascinatingly the reserve is on the site of a former curling pond built around the mid 19th century on land owned by the Castle Milk Estate. The site is now managed by Lockerbie Wildlife Trust and became a nature reserve in 1988. The area includes heathland, wetland and coniferous woodland and the Scots Pine is known to support a healthy population of Red Squirrel!

Red Squirrel ~ One of a number of Dee's photos!
It was a really enjoyable walk, encountering all the usual woodland species: Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Siskin and even Raven overhead. Of course the target today was Red Squirrel and thankfully we had no issues finding them. Three in fact, which fed quite happily in front of us, almost coming to within touching distance, much to the delight of the wife!

Winter Break!

Every year Dee and I head off to spend a week away in a cottage to celebrate her birthday and this year we're based near the Solway Firth and the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust reserve, Caerlaverock in south-west Scotland.

Whooper Swans ~ Awaiting the 11am feed!
This is a huge reserve and covers a 587 hectare site at Eastpark Farm, on the north shore of the Solway Firth to the south of Dumfries. This particular reserve is not like WWT Slimbridge, in the sense that there are no separate compounds holding captive birds and mammals, so everything you discover is wild. Almost the entire Svalbard population of Barnacle Goose overwinters in this area, with many of the birds often at Caerlaverock for part or all of this period; their protection by the reserve has enabled the population to recover from just 500 birds in the 1940s, to over 25,000 now.

Whooper Swan
Waking on our first morning to clear blue skies we were left in no doubt as to our location with the surrounding fields resonating to the sound of Whooper Swans and Barnacle Geese. After breakfast we headed off down to the reserve, a stiff northerly breeze keeping the temperature in single figures. After familiarising ourselves with the layout our first stop was the Folly Pond Hide, where a Green-winged Teal had been reported recently. Here large numbers of Wigeon and around twenty or so Eurasian Teal, plus single Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit but at this point no sign of our target bird.

Scaup ~ Taking advantage!
At this particular time of year two feeds a day take place and so Dee and I headed off to the Peter Scott Observatory, which overlooks Whooper Pond and where the feed takes place. It's an excellent opportunity to see the wildfowl at close range, including a Scaup among the Tufted Ducks during our visit. A great touch is a computer within the observatory, which allows you to enter the details of any colour ringed Whoopers you can pick up on, offering a fascinating and detailed insight into the birds movements, age etc.

Green-winged Teal ~ Folly Pond Hide
Prior to a late lunch in the nature centre we decided on visits to the Avenue Tower and Saltcot Merse Observatories, stopping off at various lookouts: Pintail, Curlew and Shoveler noted. The observatories offer stunning views out towards the Solway Firth and the Lake District beyond and produced some spectacular views of 1000's of Barnacle Geese. A stonking male Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine and Common Buzzard provided an amazing raptor fest and after lunch we eventually caught up with the Green-winged Teal back at the Folly Pond Hide.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Thankfully the rain and wind, such a feature during Saturday, gave way to brighter conditions with just a few blustery showers Sunday and Monday. Dee and I spent Sunday primarily at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg on the north-east coast of Aberdeenshire and ended with a rare twitch back in Aberdeen for Pallas's Warbler. Strathbeg is the largest dune loch in Britain and this was our first ever visit here and I have to say we were mightily impressed! With lots of trails to explore, excellent visitor centre and four hides widely spread across this huge reserve there's plenty to see.

Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese over Strathbeg
When you drive the mile or so from the main road down to the reserve you can see why this is one of the best spots to see wintering geese, with the sky black with skeins of Pinkies! More than 20% of the worlds Pink-footed Geese arrive here at this time of year and along with huge numbers of Barnacle Geese and Whooper Swans, its an astonishing spectacle.

Whooper Swans at Strathbeg
The visitor centre provides the latest information, great views across the reserve and immediately gives you the impression of the shear size of the place. From here we took a look around the wild garden and feeders, where a large population of Tree Sparrow reside and today at least three Brambling were also making use. We decided to head off to the Tower Pool Hide and the walk along the trail, which consists of wild bird cover crops held at least four Stonechat, plus a couple of Lapland Bunting were flushed and as we approached the hide. Peregrine, Fieldfare and Redwing overhead. From the hide itself great views of the 1000's of geese including one or two White-fronted and at least fifty Whopper Swan. Huge numbers of Wigeon also reside and mingled in Pintail, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal, Shoveler and Goldeneye. Waders seemed light on the ground but CurlewDunlin, Snipe, Spotted Redshank and Redshank all noted. No sign of a reported Pectoral Sandpiper unfortunately!

Red-breasted Merganser
A short drive is required back along the main road to visit the Fen and Bay Hides. Quite surreal doing this on a Sunday, having to drive through the old Crimond Airfield where a stock car rally was taking place! We began at the Bay Hide and more of the same, with the exception of Red-breasted Merganser and Yellow-browed Warbler, one seen briefly in the treeline below the hide. We met a lovely Scots couple in the Fen Hide, where we were told we'd just missed Bearded Tit and another Yellow-browed Warbler but in among the 1000's of Eurasian Wigeon an American was eventually picked out, but don't ask me how!!

Rock Pipit in a rare sunny spell!
Our flight, not until late Monday night gave us the opportunity to have a full day exploring and Dee took me up to Girdle Ness, the headland that guards the southern side of Aberdeen harbour. The short walk around it takes in the lighthouse, sea views and Torry Battery - built to defend the harbour in 1860.

Shag - Plenty around the inland waters and harbours!
It's great habit to explore, particularly for that illusive autumn migrant and lots of Shag, Turnstone, Cormorant and Oystercatcher can be found lounging on the sea walls. In the harbour several Guillemot and Seals, with Gannet further out and the aptly named Rock Pipit on the rocks below. Blackcap, continental Blackbirds and Robins could also be found feeding on the remaining berries, along with flighty Redwings.

Plenty of curious Seals at Ythan Estuary!
From here a drive north to the Ythan Estuary with a Slavonian Grebe and some large flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing on route. The estuary is tidal for around four miles and we stopped at Newburgh Bridge to explore. Here hundreds of waders, predominately Redshank but Bar-tailed GodwitGrey Plover, Ringed Plover, Knot, Dunlin and a single Little Egret, not that regular in these parts. Small parties of Eider Duck, Red-breasted Merganser and a regular flow of Seals passing by in the current.

Species Seen:

Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, White-fronted Goose, Barnacle Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Wigeon, American Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Eider Duck, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Pheasant, Slavonian Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine, Water Rail (H), Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Guillemot, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Skylark, Barn Swallow, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Stonechat, Redwing, Fieldfare, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Yellow-browed Warbler, Pallas's Warbler, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Hooded Crow, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Crossbill, Reed Bunting, Lapland Bunting

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Birding Aberdeenshire!

A long weekend in Aberdeen visiting Dee's home town offers plenty of birding opportunities but today's weather left a lot to be desired! We had intended to visit Montrose basin but with strong winds and sometimes torrential rain the best option was to stay local.

Stonehaven harbour!
We spent the early afternoon at Stonehaven enjoying the high seas and amazing breakers! On the drive down to the harbour we came across five Pink-footed Geese grounded in a field. Plenty of Gulls sheltering beyond the breakers with a single Common Scoter, at least ten Cormorant and two Shag. Redshank appeared in good numbers along with the odd Turnstone and a single Rock Pipit around the car park before we headed off further along the coast.

One of two White-fronted Geese today!
Most surrounding fields were flooded so worth stopping occasionally for a look. Plenty of Skylarks to be found, plus the odd Curlew but one field came up trumps, with two birds Dee had spotted turning out to be White-fronted Geese.

These two Barn Swallows seemed to be delayed in making their getaway!
At a later stop driving down towards RSPB Fowlsleugh (where conditions proved too arduous) we were amazed to come across a couple of Barn Swallows, which looked thoroughly damp perched up on the wires. With the horrendous conditions most birding was done in the comfort of the car and what sea watching we did manage produced endless Gannets, with the odd Auk Sp. passing through in the gloom!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Final 2016 Away-Day ~ Norfolk

The final Away-Day of the year for the Brandon Marsh team and with a blocking high pressure system still firmly in control over Scandinavia there was no other place to go but to the east coast and Norfolk. Setting off from Brandon at 06:15 with the usual stop for breakfast we arrived at RSPB Titchwell at around 09:30. Six Red Kite on route and a heavy downpour just before reaching the reserve.

A look at the feeders opposite the cafe area produced at least two Brambling, along with Goldfinch and Chaffinch and then several of us decided to head off towards Patsy's Pool. The first Yellow-browed Warbler of three for the day was seen at the feeders to the rear of the visitors centre and several Goldcrest along the path towards the Fen Hide, plus Chiffchaff and Dunnock. A look over the fence before heading up to the screen produced Meadow Pipit, Blackcap and a Stoat, which ran across some old pallets. One or two Redwings heading overhead and a scan of the track along the rear of the east trail from the second fence produced more Brambling, Redwing and Song Thrush.

One of three Yellow-browed Warbler ~ Photo by Trevor Griffiths
I didn't personally spend too much time at the screen, keen to check out the east trail but lots here including Wigeon, Snipe and Ruff. The trail produced a Common Redstart and across the pool a couple of Ring Ouzel were feeding in the elder bushes, although I personally only saw the male, thanks to Keith Foster for making us aware. A decent size flock of Golden Plover overhead, Skylark, several Curlew and more thrushes moving through before heading back across to the west side.

Spoonbill over RSPB Titchwell ~ Photo Trevor Griffiths
We took the meadow trail across to the fresh marsh, recording two more Yellow-browed Warbler, Cetti's Warbler calling and even more Goldcrest. As we tracked along the west bank path a Marsh Harrier out across the saltmarsh and at least 7/8 Bearded Tit before a couple of Jack Snipe close in on the brackish marsh. No sign of the Pectoral Sandpiper during our stay in the Parrinder Hide but two Spoonbill were a welcome diversion and a single Curlew Sandpiper and Grey Plover in among the Dunlin, Golden Plover, Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit. A sea watch was disappointing and only produced of note juvenile and adult Gannet, several Sanderling on the beach, along with Oystercatcher and Turnstone. Several stops as we headed back to the car park during a brief shower with two flocks of Brent Geese, three Little Stint, 100+ Knot, Little Grebe and Redshank.

After Titchwell a stop at Cholsey Drying Barns and here Red-legged Partridge, Yellowhammer and at least four Grey Wagtail. The only 'twitch' of the day was for the Pallas's Warbler seen at Stiffkey along Campsite Wood. Despite our best efforts, along with several other birders we dipped on this one, although a couple of Greenshank along the wet marsh added to the day list!

Two final stops for the visit: Firstly at Cley beach, which produced Slavonian Grebe, Red-throated Diver, Guillemot and Gannet offshore and looking inland Wheatear and four late Barn Swallow. Final stop in fading light was Salthouse, only birds of note on Gramborough Hill Meadow Pipit and a brace of Stonechat. A final scan before heading off produced four Marsh Harrier as the heavens opened to end a thoroughly enjoyable day!

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Diary Update #54

Since arriving back from Spain I've made several visits to Brandon Marsh, including completing some chainsaw work for the BMVCT and of course spent time locally. To be honest Brandon has been pretty dire for waders with only a single Green Sandpiper noted, a couple of Little Egret and a best count of nine Snipe during one visit. Two Stonechat at Jury Hide last week and Redwings are beginning to arrive with several flocks of 20+ during this Fridays visit, at least two Grey Wagtails are busy around the cement works and a half dozen Siskin also recorded. An interesting post on the Brandon website this evening of a possible Yellow-browed Warbler today will require some investigation during tomorrows visit.

1st Lesser Redpoll of the autumn at the marina
At the marina a Tawny Owl has been quite active, with several views of the bird in flight, mainly at dusk and this morning a Grey Plover could be heard calling from a nearby field, but I didn't make contact. The first Lesser Redpoll of the autumn was also found at the marina during my morning walk, along with more Redwing over.

One of two Wheatears along Grandborough Fields
Dee and I had an afternoon walk around Grandborough fields from the open barn to Toft Lakes fishing pools today. There are plenty of ploughed fields to explore and indeed one came up trumps producing a couple of Wheatear.

Another Wheatear at Grandborough
The east coast is currently the place to be, with weather conditions perfect, and so right on cue a visit to Norfolk on Monday with the Brandon Team is eagerly anticipated!

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Birding Spain ~ Final Day

With my flight home not until Wednesday evening I took a final opportunity to visit Zapata one last time in the early dawn. A Grasshopper Warbler had been seen at the ford yesterday, a mega sighting for Andalucía by all accounts, but there was no sign during my visit.

The ford at Zapata ~ A wonderful habitat full of birds!
As I arrived a Night Heron was busy feeding on the waters edge, along with Little Egret but soon took flight as I approached. Also at the watering hole was a good selection of Goldfinch, House Sparrow and Serin, plus the usual Common Sandpiper and Little-ringed Plovers, not at all bothered by my presence. I parked up and took a stroll around, several Crested Lark and two White Wagtail along the ground and after checking the many tamarisk I ended up with Pied Flycatcher, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff and a group of twenty or so Common Waxbill, which were pretty mobile. Further along the river Kingfishers were busy as usual and by the time I arrived back at the car Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Yellow Wagtail, Hoopoe, Cattle Egret and overhead Barn Swallow, Common Swift, and House Martin.

Once across the ford I spent time on the bridge overlooking the flood channel, which had just enough water trickling through to entice birds down for a drink. As I set up the scope a Marsh Harrier drifted over, two Red-rumped Swallows bravely challenging before continuing on. A dark phase Booted Eagle, closely followed by an Osprey next, which seemed to drop down abruptly after spotting something tasty no doubt! Back to the channel and a Black Redstart was one of several birds taking advantage, then a gorgeous male Common Redstart and yet another adult Bluethroat. A half dozen Serin and a Stonechat was perched up in usual fashion on a nearby branch!

Stone Curlew ~ In the heat haze!
Finally, making my way back to the Mesón El Cohete café for breakfast I stopped to see if Monday's Stone Curlew were still around. Five birds were still on site and I managed a Short-toed Lark and a second Bluethroat of the day before finally bringing this particular trip to a close!