Sunday, January 27, 2019

πŸ“– #3/2019 ~ Weekly Roundup

Winter finally arrived last week with a light flurry of snow on Tuesday plus a few frosty mornings. Daytime temperatures struggled to get above 5C until a warmer period Thursday/Friday sent the temperatures up into double digits, it's blowing a hoolie today Sunday!

Tree Sparrow 
Several visits to Brandon Marsh over the period with a snap decision to go and see the Great Grey Shrike at Hanging Houghton with Theo de Clermont on Wednesday 23rd. The Shrike remained elusive during a mid-morning session but a large flock of mixed Skylarks/Buntings, plus a few Red Kites kept the interest going. A Brambling at the barn on the way out was a bonus but we didn't manage to connect with the reported Corn Buntings or single Lapland Bunting.

Tree Sparrow at Pitsford Reservoir feeders
We did eventually connect with the distant Shrike later in the day after a return visit via Pitsford Reservoir, where I wanted to catch up with the Tree Sparrows on the feeders. Also of note during our brief stay sixteen Red-crested Pochards but no sign of the long staying Ring-necked duck!

Long staying Whooper Swans at Brandon Marsh
Bittern Brandon Marsh ~ Saturday 26th
The main highlights from the Brandon visits included the long staying, although sometimes absent, pair of Whooper Swans, 5 Shelduck (Saturday) a Peregrine and two Bitterns on Friday 25th, plus stunning views as one of the Bitterns flew directly out in front of East Marsh Hide. Also of note over the week 10 Golden Plover to the east on Saturday but didn't drop in, plus a single Ruff this morning Sunday, although I personally missed that one. 

Images Of The Week....

An elusive Cetti's Warbler ~ Brandon Marsh

Bittern ~ East Marsh Hide, Brandon Marsh

Monday, January 21, 2019

πŸ“– #3/2019 ~ Gloucestershire

☁️6C Saturday 19th January 2019 ~ Our annual visit to WWT Slimbridge, not every birder's favourite but somewhere Dazza and I both enjoy. Where else can you get close enough to study certain bird species that you'll probably never get to see in the wild?

Bewick Swan ~ WWT Slimbridge
We arrived mid-morning and despite the weather forecast predicting occasional heavy showers, we enjoyed a completely uninterrupted day, despite it being quite gloomy for the best part. To be honest, it wasn't the best days birding we've had with little movement and a few noticeable absentees, including Ruff and Peregrine. That said, White-fronted Geese (circa 120), Barnacle Geese (circa 80) and Common Crane were all noted, the latter though only producing two adults and a juvenile out on the 'Dumbles.

Pintail from the Martin Smith hide
The Martin Smith hide provided the best and the worst of the day! A Jack Snipe was close in but very well hidden, occasional seen bobbing and out in front on the 'Tack Piece' thousands of birds, which included many Pintail on the pools, plus Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin and around thirty Bewicks.

The Fox bolted through the fence to the right! This hound followed through.
Sadly the day was marred by a pack of hounds, let loose by the barbarians on horseback, which I'm sad to say ran amok throughout the 'Dumbles'. Both Dazza and I were left stunned to see the Fox bolt across the grassland, closely followed by the hounds. Needless to say, not a single bird was left, the thirty or so Bewicks happily sleeping one minute flushed out towards the estuary! In fact, at the 4pm feed, not a single Bewick Swan returned. Unfortunately, the Berkeley Castle Estate owns the New Grounds at Slimbridge, where the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust is based, and about five miles of the bed of the River Severn. They also retain the hunting rights. This does not, however, excuse this disgraceful disregard for wildlife and activities which are simply banned by law and that you and I know continues unabated!!

Drake Mandarin Duck at Canop Ponds 
☁️6C Sunday 20th January 2019 ~ A visit to some of the well-known birding areas in the Forest of Dean. Sadly, Unlike previous years there are no Great Grey Shrikes or Penduline Tits to see this year so we began at Canop Ponds for Mandarin Duck. Of course, it was Sunday and as you would imagine everyone was out enjoying their favourite pastimes, dog walking, cycling and generally getting the kids to be as noisy and disruptive as possible. In fact, it actually worked in our favour for once, someone was feeding the ducks and in among them eight drakes and six females!

Female Mandarin ~ One of a half dozen at Canop Ponds
Next stop Park End, where we began at the area opposite the cricket pitch. Immediately there we're six Hawfinch in the treetops, which unfortunately didn't come down to ground level during our stay, probably due to the several parked cars, lenses poking a foot or two out of the windows.

Hawfinch in the treetops at Park End
Park End church next and once again several parked cars lenses poking out in the hope that the local Crossbill population would come down to clean off in the rain puddles. Maybe in the week but not a chance today! In fact, the best they probably managed was the gorgeous Nuthatch and several Chaffinches busy scoffing the nuts that the obliging photographers had provided, completely oblivious to the pair of Crossbills perched in the trees a short distance away! We had more Crossbills during our walk into the woods, plus at least three Marsh Tits, Treecreepers and a large flock of Siskin.

We enjoyed another walk, this time around New Fancy Viewpoint with more Crossbills seen but a little early perhaps for displaying Goshwawks? And even if they were displaying they would have been impossible to see in the low cloud and descending mist.

Dipper midstream at Wenchford Picnic Area
Our final stop of the day was at Wenchford Picnic Area for Dipper, which was mobbed due to both a cycling and children's event taking place, although we did manage to find some of the Mistermen the kids were searching for. I think Dazza said they were Mr Tickle and Mr Sneeze. Notwithstanding we took a pleasant walk along the fast flowing stream and were astonished to find, despite the disruption, a single bird midstream, just beyond the picnic benches down from the toilet block. We had more views of probably the same bird from the bridge just prior to leaving. A very enjoyable but sometimes frustrating weekend.

More Images Of The Day....

Water Rail at WWT Slimbridge

Barnacle Geese ~ WWT Slimbridge

Cranes ~ WWT Slimbridge

Mobile Phone test ~ Male Crossbill at Park End

Saturday, January 12, 2019

πŸ“– #2/2019 ~ Weekly Roundup!

☀️6C Friday 11th January 2019 ~ A few hours at Eyebrook Reservoir produced an amazing 10 Smew, sadly all at distance, plus over 50+ DunlinRedshank and a nice flock of Golden Plover circa 150.

Golden Plover at Eyebrook
Only a 40-minute drive to Summer Leys Nature reserve next where a drake Ring-necked Duck showed well enabling some excellent scoped views before the bird went AWOL.

Canon SX50 at full zoom to get this one ~ Drake Ring-necked Duck
πŸŒ‚☁️8C Saturday 12th January 2019 A day out with Dazza at Rutland water taking in the surrounding areas before heading onto the main reserve at The Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre, Egleton.

First stop was the North Arm around Burley fishponds where a couple of Great Egrets showed well. Three Slavonian Grebes were easily located but two Black-necked Grebes proved more difficult and were eventually found at distance. Better views of both species were obtained from the Fishermans car park but the strong breeze was a hindrance.

From Hambleton Old Hall a large raft of Tufted Duck produced a single female Scaup before Dazza picked out a Red-necked Grebe just beyond the group.

One highlight from around the main reserve was a drake Smew on Lagoon 4 but by far the most enjoyable sighting of the day was exceptionally close views of a feeding Jack Snipe from the Crake Hide: Video above!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

πŸ“– #1 ~ 2019 Begins!

☀️3C Sunday 6th January 2019 ~ A nice surprise during Sunday 6th's visit to Brandon Marsh was a Great Egret, which flew over me and down onto East Marsh Pool as I walked up the track towards the hide at around 08:30.

Great Egret ~ Brandon Marsh Sunday 6th January
☀️4C Monday 7th January 2019 ~ A quick stop on Monday 7th to catch up with a local Little Owl before heading off to Brandon Marsh, where a sub-adult Caspian Gull was the highlight and Draycote Water later for the gull roost, the latter producing Meditteranean and Glaucous Gull.

Local Little Owl in his usual spot!
πŸŒ€πŸŒ‚⛅5C Tuesday 8th January 2019 ~ The first away-day of the year and a visit to the Norfolk coast on Tuesday in pretty challenging conditions. In fact, the early morning spring tide, accompanied by some really strong Northerlies did cause a few issues with some sea defences actually being breached. The evidence of which was apparent when we stopped off at Salthouse, where a Seal was actually sheltering along the shingle near the old car park. Glad to say that by the time we arrived back to the car after a walk around Grandborough Hill it had in fact managed to haul itself back out to sea.

Twite in the harsh morning sun ~ Thornham Harbour

Stops at Thornham Harbour for Twite and Holkham Gap for Shorelark were successful, although the heavy showers in the afternoon were a hindrance. Of course, the large skeins of Pink-footed Geese and big numbers of Brent Geese are always a spectacle. RSPB Titchwell also yielded at least three Meditteranean Gulls.

Shorelark ~ A challenging job getting this one in strong winds

One of only seven Shorelarks at Holkham
Despite the conditions, it was a decent days birding, although sea-watching was difficult I did manage to log Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Gannet, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Red-throated Diver, plus Fulmars at Hunstanton.

One of the highlights on the day was a Hen Harrier at Cholsey Barns while having lunch, this along with Red Kite and both Grey and Red-legged Partridge.

Grey Plover ay RSPB Titchwell
Waders included Grey Plover, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Curlew, Redshank and Spotted Redshank, Ruff and Avocet.

Many thanks to Geoff Hood, John Raven and Fred Burton for their company.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Spain at Christmas

Fires lit and settled back aboard now after spending Christmas and New Year with Dazza at my best buddy's villa near Mijas, Spain. The winter birding was excellent and the weather simply stunning with mostly clear blue skies and temperatures in the low 20s.

Wintering Stone Curlews at Zapata

Osprey over Zapata
Over 10-days we spent plenty of time around Zapata, a little gem of a place at the north end of Malaga Airport. Incredible that with aircraft landing only meters overhead the habitat can yield so much. Wintering Bluethroats, Penduline Tits, Stone Curlews and an Osprey to mention a few.

White-headed Duck ~ Guadalhorce
At the opposite end of the airport is the reserve at Guadalhorce which I've mentioned here many times over the years, here too despite the disruption the birding was outstanding with key species such as White-headed Duck and over 30 wintering Black-necked Grebes.

Thekla Lark at 5,000ft

Where there are rocks there's Rock Bunting
At Sierra Loja in the Granada Province, we took the climb up to 5000ft in glorious conditions encountering a small wintering population of Ring Ouzels, Azure-winged Magpies, Thekla Larks, Blue Rock Thrush and of course several Black Wheaters.

Black-winged Kite at La Janda
We also drove down towards Gibraltar and then on to the rice fields of La Janda, where once more wintering species were in abundance: White Storks, Common Cranes, Spoonbills, Hen Harriers and Black-winged Kites.

Griffon Vulture
On New Year's Eve, a drive across to the new Vulture feeding station near Campillos produced several Griffon Vultures overhead but unfortunately, despite there being the whole of a dead horse, not a pretty sight or smell, this was not enough to bring the hoards down, apparently, it wasn't ripe enough! Fussy things Vultures.

Flamingo's at Fuente de Piedra

Iberian Grey Shrike at Fuente
From here onto Fuente de Piedra one of Spain's largest lagoons for the awesome sight of 1000s of Flamingos and while in the area a couple of Iberian Grey Shrike added to the excitement.

One of four Black Wheatear at Canteros
Finally Canteros Los Arenales an old quarry some 3,000ft up to the back of Mijas Pueblo and Dazza's favourite walk. The day list here consisted of Crag Martin, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Dartford Warbler, Hawfinch, Crossbill and Black Wheatear.

And so the end of another superb visit and indeed another brilliant year's birding. To finish I've compiled the following video of the visit ~ I hope you like it and Happy Birding.