Sunday, 27 February 2011

Sutton Bingham - Sun 27 Feb

A great visit to the reservoir today as I picked up a Sutton Bingham tick in the form of a Jack Snipe that I nearly trod on before it flew from the water's edge at the southern end of the reservoir. A total of nine Common Snipe were also present, and some twenty Teal were seen.
From the northern causeway there was a fair bit happening on West Pool. The Scaup that I saw a few days ago was again present and associating with eight Tufted Duck and three drake Pochard, another drake Pochard was just off the Sailing Club.
Some thirty eight Wigeon were grazing on the grass next to West Pool, the first time for a while that I had seen any at the reservoir. Before I knew it my time was up as I had to race back to East Coker to pick Ellie up from church, but an excellent visit this morning.
UK list for 2011 now at 168 species.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Poole Park and Wareham Forest - Thu 24 Feb

I had a couple of days holiday booked so today Ellie and I set off to south Dorset and drove down to Poole, arriving late morning for a walk around Poole Park. I was hoping to see a first-winter Ring-billed Gull that had been at the park for a couple of weeks. We spent a couple of hours wandering about, grabbing a cup of tea and a pasty and eventually spotted the gull after I had two tantalising glimpses earlier. I did manage a record shot, but the bird was partially hidden by vegetation!
Other birds of interest as we walked around included a couple of Oystercatchers and a Grey Heron, both somewhat out of place in a busy urban park.
We than headed back towards home, stopping off in Wareham Forest at Sherford Bridge and taking a walk out across Morden Bog. There was a distinct lack of birds despite the lovely weather. A single Raven few over and the pick of the crop was a male Merlin that showed really well for a few minutes before flying off over the heath. So with nothing else to see we called it a day and came on home.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Sutton Bingham - Wed 23 Feb

Another afternoon visit but nowhere near as productive as yesterday. I picked Ellie up at 4.30pm and we drove up to the reservoir and took a walk from the hide along to the car park and back again. Whilst there was little quality today, there was some quantity, with a flock of forty Woodpigeons flew from the trees opposite the hide. As we walked along a flock of thirty-eight Fieldfares flew over heading east and fifty Cormorants were roosting in trees on the far bank opposite the Canoe Club.
A male Sparrowhawk passed over the water and as we reached the car park some twenty or so Redwings flitted through the trees. On West Pool we saw a couple of Teal and a few Tufted Duck were hiding in the waterside vegetation.
Our return trip to the hide produced nothing else of note, though another two Teal were viewable from the hide.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Sutton Bingham - Tue 22 Feb

A brief fifteen minute visit after work was pretty productive. I parked on the northern causeway at 4.30pm and scanned over West Pool. Eleven Tufted Duck were present and a pair of Pochard were with them. I then noticed another diving duck, a first winter Scaup!
Also on West Pool a pair of Teal and two Little Grebes.
On the main reservoir an adult summer-plumaged Mediterranean Gull was within a flock of some two hundred Black-headed Gulls.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 20 Feb

Ellie and I set off to the Somerset Levels after lunch to enjoy a nice walk at Ham Wall. We parked at Ashcott Corner car park and walked out to the tea rooms at Sharpham. Along the way we saw at least four Great White Egrets in the reeds. The usual wildfowl were on the water, Shoveler, Teal, etc. and a single Lapwing was seen.
After a cup of tea and piece of cake at the tea rooms we returned to the car. A Treecreeper showed well in small trees alongside the path and a Snipe flew over, and we also saw a couple of Roe Deer. No sign of any Bitterns though, but nice to get out and about in the fresh air, especially after spending most of the morning in the car!

Chipping Norton - Sun 20 Feb

A few of my mates had been up to Chipping Norton yesterday, but I had alternative plans so could not join them, so when the cat woke me up at 5.50am I decided it was a sign and within twenty minutes I was on the road, leaving Ellie sleeping soundly in bed!
A very good journey up to Chipping Norton took less than two and a half hours, with a Red Kite over the road about twenty miles south of Oxford. By 8.30am I had parked the car and walked south to the area in which the recently rediscovered Oriental Turtle Dove had been frequenting. However, I met only one other birder, so figured our chances of finding it were not that great. After ninety minutes with no sign a few more birders arrived, and quarter of an hour later I saw the bird, but only brief flight views. Another ten minutes passed and the dove was relocated in an ivy covered oak tree thirty metres from where we were standing! I was close enough to grab a couple of record shots of the Oriental Turtle Dove:

I watched this mega rarity for half an hour, and as the news spread more and more birders appeared. By the time I left there must have been at least 150 people present and as I walked back to the car more were arriving. So a great morning out, and after an uneventful drive, I was back home by 12.30pm.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Blackwater Arboretum - Sat 19 Feb

After a relaxing start to the day, Ellie and I headed off to the small village of Rockford just north of Ringwood where we met up with our friends Laura and Paul for lunch at the Alice Lisle Pub. After an extremely good meal and a chat we decided to head off to Blackwater Arboretum for an afternoon stroll...and hopefully some birds!
It was a little after 3.30pm by the time we reached the arboretum and as we entered the grounds we were beckoned over to a group of birders who were watching a fir tree, and before long we saw why as a couple of male and a female Crossbill were showing well feeding on the fir cones.

After watching the birds for ten minutes or so we walked in to the middle of the arboretum so that we had a good view of all the surrounding trees, and before too long a shout rang out as some Hawfinches had be found. Over the next half an hour or so we had some great views of at least four birds.

Before we realised it time had ticked on to nearly 5.00pm, so it was time to head off home. As we reached the car park, we saw a small group of three or four Siskins. Bidding our farewells to Laura and Paul we came on home after a great afternoon out.
UK list for 2011 now at 164 species.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Sutton Bingham - Wed 9 Feb

After the exploits of the weekend I decided to stay local this afternoon and spent an hour at the reservoir. I made straight for the hide and saw nothing! So within a few minutes I was back at the northern causeway.
On West Pool there were four Tufted Ducks and a female Pochard. A flock of forty Wigeon were also present along with a drake Gadwall. On the main reservoir another five Wigeon were off the dam.
The gathering gull flock contained half a dozen Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
A small number of Redwings and Fieldfares flew over, but there was little else of note, so I bit the bullet and headed home to do some chores!

Flitcham and Lynford Arboretum - Mon 7 Feb

The last few hours of our Norfolk trip saw us stop off at the small private nature reserve at Flitcham. We parked the car and took a short walk along the road and before long had located at least four Tree Sparrows in the hedges. We then popped in to the hide and saw a couple of Egyptian Geese and a fair sized flock of Fieldfare amongst others. A Grey Partridge showed on the edge of one of the neighbouring fields. As we were getting ready to leave a flock of birds flew past the hide and landed in trees to our right, we got the scope on them and were surprised to see at least a dozen Bramblings.
Leaving Flitcham we cut cross country and continued south to the small town of Mundford and a visit to Lynford Arboretum. We took a walk around the lake and picked up Marsh Tit and Bullfinch, but there was no sign of any Hawfinches unfortunately. So we decided to finish the day on a relative high rather than chase any more birds and we left Norfolk and came on home after a brilliant four days away.
I finished the weekend with a trip total of 130 species in Norfolk, not bad for four days of birding.
UK list for 2011 now at 162 species.

Wells-Next-the-Sea, Holkham & Holme - Mon 7 Feb

Our final day in Norfolk and as our first stop was going to be just up the road we had a slightly later start to the day. After getting our stuff together and loading the car we drove up towards the beach and parked by the pitch and putt course. We were looking for the flock of Brent Geese but they were not to be seen, so I suggested we take a look over the sea bank at the river. This turned out to be a good idea as we located several Brent Geese feeding on the water's edge near us. Before too long we managed to locate an adult Black Brant amongst the flock.
We left Wells and five minutes later parked at the entrance to Holkham Hall and took a walk around the grounds. A Barn Owl was showing well as it hunted along the tree line and we managed to add a few species to the weekend list such as Nuthatch and Green Woodpecker. However, we did not spend too long wandering around and before too long moved on again, heading west towards Holme-Next-the-Sea.
We arrived at Holme and took the track towards the Bird Observatory and parked the car. We took a short walk along the boardwalk towards the beach and then found a sheltered spot to scan the sea. Before long I had located a small group of Long-tailed Duck and as we continued to scan the sea it became evident that there were at least fifteen birds present. A large flock of Snow Buntings were feeding on the beach in front of us, there must have been at least seventy birds present, a few Twite and Linnets were mixed in with the flock. Also out to sea at least one Red-throated Diver flew west and a large skua that passed by distantly was almost certainly a Great Skua.
With time ticking by, we returned to the car and headed off south.

Titchwell RSPB and Burnham Overy Staithe - Sun 6 Feb

We arrived at Titchwell and again made straight for the cafe and ordered some lunch, just two bacon rolls for me today. Whilst we waited for our order Steve went on ahead to search for the Northern Harrier. Before too long we joined him, but despite a decent search the bird could not be found, so we walked out to the beach and did a spot of sea-watching. The sea was quieter than yesterday, and we didn't see anything new for the weekend list. The flock of Snow Buntings were again on the beach. We walked back and popped in to Parrinder Hide whilst Steve had another look for the harrier. From the hide we saw an adult Mediterranean Gull and about thirty Twite, including some colour-ringed birds. Leaving the hide we met up with Steve who had eventually connected with the Northern Harrier...result. On the way back to the car we had cracking views of a Water Rail.
Off we headed back to Burnham Overy Staithe and walked north from the road out towards the dunes. We sheltered behind a bank and scanned out over the fields and before long I got on to a large raptor over some trees, a Rough-legged Buzzard and the bird we were after. It showed well for a few minutes and then appeared to land in the trees. Some ten minutes later it left the trees and drifted away from us before landing out of view. Taking this as a good sign to end the day, we walked back to the car and headed back to Wells.

Cley Next the Sea and Burnham Norton - Sun 6 Feb

Again we were on the road by 7.00am and drive east to Cley Next the Sea, arriving soon after dawn and parking at the East Bank car park. We walked north along the East Bank scanning the small flocks of Eurasian Wigeon looking for a drake American Wigeon, and before long Dave had located it and got us all on the bird. Unfortunately, the light was still pretty poor so it did not present me with an ideal photo opportunity:

We then continued along the path to the sea, hearing several Bearded Tits calling in the reeds, but in the wind they were keeping out of sight.
When we reached the beach we got lucky and stumbled upon the wintering flock of Shore Larks, with ten birds present:
We watched these cracking birds for a good fifteen minutes as the steadily worked closer to us. We then spent a while scanning out to sea, and during that time at least a dozen Red-throated Divers flew through and a Guillemot was on the sea. We then started the walk back to the car, with Steve and I leading the way...which proved costly as we missed a Glaucous Gull that was flushed from the centre of the reserve by a passing Peregrine. Andy called us back, but it was too late, but we did see a Spoonbill. So we decided to head round to the beach car park and try and relocate the gull.
Ten minutes later we pulled in to the beach car park and walked along the beach to the hide that overlooks the reserve. When we arrived we were told that the gull had flown off west, so whilst John, Dave and Steve waited in the hide I decided to go and try and relocate the bird and went out to the beach and started scanning west, Andy decided to join me. Before long I had got on a large gull several hundred metres down the coast. I studied it for quite some time before it turned round and showed itself as the Glaucous Gull I missed half an hour earlier. A quick call to Steve in the hide alerted other birders and before long half a dozen of us had connected with the bird before it flew out to sea.
After a good start to the day we decided against entering the centre of the reserve and instead drove off towards Holt, pulling off the road at a site known as The Hangs. As we scanned through the flock of Pink-footed Geese we eventually got on to a Tundra Bean Goose, great stuff and another good bird for the weekend.
We then headed back west along the coast and stopped just outside the village of Burham Norton where a large flock of Pink-footed Geese was feeding in a sugar beet field. We scanned through the flock looking for an adult Ross's Goose, but could not locate it. Steve did however find a Barnacle Goose in the flock. A passing birder then told us that the Ross's Goose could be seen from a minor road at the top of the hill, so we zoomed up to the place in question getting out of the car just as the entire flock took to the air! Talk about bad luck, however, before long John managed to pick up the Ross's Goose in flight and then we were able to relocate the goose on distant fields as it showed up well on the dull fields, even if it was a couple of miles away! It was now getting on for lunch time so we set off to Titchwell after a great morning.

Choseley, Titchwell RSPB & Burnham Overy Staithe - Sat 5 Feb

Leaving Thornham we drove up to the drying bans at Choseley and before long had connected with a mixed flock of farmland birds which included a handful of Corn Buntings and several Yellowhammers. However, it was now well past midday and our stomachs were rumbling, so it was off down the road to the RSPB reserve at Titchwell.
Whilst Steve stayed by the car having his packed lunch, the rest of us walked along to the Visitor Centre and ordered bacon rolls, three for me today (including a take-away which the ladies kindly wrapped in foil for me!). Whilst we were getting served I had a call saying the Northern Harrier was showing just up the path. So we bolted our food and ran up the path only to discover it had vanished again. However, after ten minutes or so the bird showed again over the marshes and we were afforded excellent views of the bird...all of us except Steve who had arrived too late. We gave the bird another twenty minutes or so to reappear but it failed to oblige so we walked out to the beach and spent some time sea-watching. Out to sea we found a Red-necked Grebe and mixed in with a flock of several hundred Common Scoters we saw at least six Velvet Scoters. A single Slavonian Grebe was also present and a small flock of Eider were also out to sea. As we were staring out to sea we were lucky enough to have a small flock of Snow Buntings fly in and feed near us:

Leaving the beach we walked back on to the reserve proper and from the new Parrinder Hide connected with a flock of Twite and a Water Pipit:
We then returned to the car, seeing a couple of Egyptian Geese fly over along the way, and headed back east, stopping at Burnham Overy Staithe and walking north towards the dunes.
From our viewpoint we saw a ring-tail Hen Harrier, a few Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk. However, it was getting too dark to see much else so we called it a day and were back at Wells by about 5.30pm after another long but profiable day of birding.

Thornham, Wolferton and Hunstanton - Sat 5 Feb

An early start and on the road at 7.00am for the drive west to Thornham harbour. By the time we had arrived there were already a few birders gathered looking for the long-staying Northern Harrier which I had been lucky enough to see back in November of last year. We spent well over an hour scanning the marshes to the east but in very high winds it was perhaps not that surprising that the bird failed to show. However, whilst there we did see several species of wader, including a small flock of Knot.
After a while we decided to head off with the intention of returning to Thornham later in the day and we followed the A149 south to the Wolferton "Triangle". As we drove around Dave spotted a male Golden Pheasant lurking in the undergrowth, so I slammed on the brakes and managed to see the bird as it ran off in to the vegetation, unfortunately Steve and John missed it. So after driving around for another ten minutes we parked up and got out to take a look. Despite spending forty minutes or so searching for these elusive birds we drew a blank, we even tried tape-luring them! So we retraced our steps and headed back north.
A brief stop at Hunstanton yielded a couple of Fulmars, but we did not linger due to the wind, and by 11.15am we were back at Thornham to see if the harrier was present. Unfortunately it was not, but we did see a couple of Spotted Redshanks feeding in a muddy gully, a Bittern in flight for several minutes, and a Barn Owl. A single Twite also flew over calling, heading west. So at midday we left Thornham knowing that we still had a couple of days to connect with this mega rare North American raptor.

Cantley Marshes, Horsey, Waxham and Stubbs Mill - Fri 4 Feb

On the road by 7.00am and having picked up the rest of the posse a five hour drive to the other side of Norwich and a date with destiny as I determined to finally connect with a species of bird that I had missed on countless occasions. We parked at the bottom of Burnt House Lane in the small Norfolk village of Cantley and walked out to scan the marshes and the gathered goose flock. After an hour of scanning a mass of grey geese with nothing obviously different from the Pink-footed Geese (with the exception of a single Eurasian White-fronted Goose) I had given up all hope of ever seeing this elusive species until a slight change of angle as I moved away from John, Dave, Andy and Steve finally produced the result I was after...a Taiga Bean Goose! I can't begin to describe my relief at finally connecting with this species after years of blood, sweat and tears. With our target for this site ticked off, we headed off for Horsey, a thirty minute drive away.
Parking at Horsey Windmill we were surprised by the lack of birds, just a few Greylag Geese, though John and I did manage to see a ring-tail Hen Harrier briefly. So wasting no more time here we continued north and stopped at Waxham and walked out to the beach. A Barn Owl was hunting in the dunes, amazingly managing to hunt in very strong winds. From the beach we saw a Slavonian Grebe on the sea but little else.
Our next stop was Stubbs Mill, just south of the village of Hickling, and the harrier roost. We arrived well before dusk and our luck seemed to be in straightaway as we had a Mealy Redpoll feeding in trees next to the car. We then walked out to the viewpoint and were pleasantly surprised when we bumped in to a couple of old friends from Reading. Over the next hour we were treated to a cracking spectacle as around thirty Marsh Harriers came in to roost. A single Hen Harrier was also present and we were lucky enough to see half a dozen Common Cranes in flight. An unexpected find was a Hooded Crow spotted by Steve as it flew across to our left. I also managed to pick up a Bittern as it flew across the reeds and managed to get a few others on it before it landed out of view. As the light started to fade we walked back to the car park and as we were chatting a couple of Woodcock flew over our heads, a great end to a great day of birding. Leaving Hickling we then had a ninety minute drive to Wells-next-the-Sea and our accommodation for the weekend.