Friday, 27 December 2013

Portland Harbour - Fri 27 Dec

When news broke on Boxing Day of a Brunnich's Guillemot in Portland Harbour I obviously got itchy feet....problem was I was spending the day with the family visiting the in-laws. So it was an early start this morning getting to Portland Harbour at 8.00am. When I got out of the car at Osprey Quay I was nearly blown away, and there were surprisingly few birders too. A quick scan of the immediate area yielded nothing so I walked back towards the marina and soon found loads more birders, but no bird! The marina area held a couple of Great Northern Divers and there were several Red-breasted Mergansers about. After about thirty minutes the shout went up and everyone hurried towards Portland Castle, but no sign of the bird when we got, another shout, it was back at the marina! Well not when everyone got there it wasn't, just three Razerbills and a Little Grebe! Whilst everyone was scanning I caught an auk in flight heading back towards Osprey Quay, so I walked back to the car and found a Common Guillemot! I then drove back to the marina and after a lot of waiting I spied another distant auk, this time back towards the Aqua Hotel, so in to the car (and giving a lift to a lad from Sussex) and off to the Aqua! No sign and heavy rain. After moving round to another area I did manage to see the Black Guillemot that had been lingering for a couple of days. More waiting and then I decided to try Osprey Quay again. Five minutes later I was back where I started and was chatting to a couple of birders when one of them got a phone was at the Aqua Hotel...unbelievable, I'd just left there! Another manic drive, and another lift offered, and finally I managed to connect with the Brunnich's Guillemot. I was lucky enough to get some cracking views though my 'scope as it drifted west towards the marina. I then moved the car and drove round to Portland Castle for an attempted closer view...that's when the heavens opened and I took this as a sign to get on home and spend the rest of the day with the family. I'd seen what I'd come for and what a brilliant bird.
Year list for 2013 now at 229 species.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Sutton Bingham - Fri 20 Dec

Another late afternoon visit after work today and a cursory look around the southern end of the reservoir produced absolutely nothing, so it was back to the northern causeway. I had a quick wander around the car park, but saw nothing so as the day started to draw to a close I concentrated on the gathering gulls. Amongst the several hundred Black-headed Gulls I was surprised to pick out a total of eleven Mediterranean Gulls, seven adult-plumaged birds and four first-winters. This is my highest ever single count of Mediterranean Gulls at SBR, my previous highest being just four birds!
Other than the massed gulls I saw just a single Kingfisher as it zoomed across the water and just as the light was about to go I noticed a pair of ducks appear as if from nowhere. A quick rush back to the car park to get closer proved futile as they appeared to have vanished in the two minutes it took me to move locations. Back to the causeway and finally managed to get a good view of a pair of Gadwall. The mild weather was obviously playing its part today as they actually started copulating! So two new species for the SBR year list tonight, bringing it up to 103 species!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Sutton Bingham - Thu 19 Dec

A visit at dusk in very poor weather did produce a bit of a surprise as a flock of fifteen Lapwings fought their way south over the water through strong winds and rain. The Wigeon flock was off the dam today and numbered some twenty-two birds. In fact everything seemed to be off the dam today, with seventeen Great Crested Grebes counted and loads of gulls...including a flock of some 200 Common Gulls that dropped in. A Kingfisher whizzed over the water and the only bird seen at the southern end of the reservoir was a lone Little Grebe.

Sutton Bingham - Tue 17 Dec

A very brief visit on the way home for work as I'd had a text saying a Gadwall was on West Pool late morning...this would be a year tick for the reservoir for me so I though it worth a quick look. It wasn't though as the bird had gone! A flock of sixty-nine Wigeon were a the southern end of the reservoir and the pylons played host to a Peregrine and Kestrel.
The northern end produced a single Little Grebe on West Pool and a Chiffchaff was heard calling.

Lynford Arboretum - Fri 13 Dec

A sad day today as I travelled to Norwich for the funeral of my aunt. After a moving service at the crematorium I had a few hours before the memorial service in Diss, so I travelled up to Mundford and spent some time at Lynford Arboretum arriving a little before midday.
I set up my scope and scanned the larches near the small visitor centre (which I have never seen open!). I was hoping for a Two-barred Crossbill to put in an appearance as a male had been present for a few months. Soon after being joined by a couple of other birds a small flock of nine Crossbills dropped in to the trees and after a false alarm with a Common Crossbill with wing-bars we were lucky enough to see the real McCoy with good views of the male Two-barred Crossbill. Using the UK400 Club lists this bird was a landmark for me as it was my 400th species of wild bird in the UK!
The small flock soon vanished and over the next hour or so I just saw a couple more Common Crossbills, including this male:
Also around the arboretum a small flock of a dozen or so Siskin put in a brief appearance and there seemed to be Coal Tits everywhere. A good number of Redwings passed through and the other "expected" woodland species were seen.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Sutton Bingham - Mon 9 Dec

After a busy weekend with little chance to do any birding, though I did manage to dip a Great Grey Shrike near Hambridge and a couple of Common Cranes near Puddletown, I spent an hour or so on Monday morning at Sutton Bingham Reservoir. A late afternoon visit on Sunday had produced a squealing Water Rail somewhere on the banks of West Pool, a Little Egret by the Fishing Lodge and a Peregrine atop a pylon at the southern end, but it seemed much quieter this morning.
A couple of Mute Swans were seen from the southern causeway before eventually flying off north and a couple of Ravens passed overhead. There were reasonable numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings about but nothing in the way of winter duck on the water so I concentrated on the car park.
There were quite a few birds flitting around the trees with three Treecreepers being seen, a fly-over Meadow Pipit, a Nuthatch heard calling and a couple of Goldcrests. There were also several Chiffchaffs present with at least six being counted. All appeared to be the nominate collybita with the exception of one bird which really stood out. This Chiffchaff had an all black bill and legs, was brown and buff in colouration and had a noticeable, if somewhat pale, wing looked bang on for a tristis Siberian Chiffchaff. Unfortunately I didn't hear the bird call during the prolonged views I managed as it fed in the trees which would have surely clinched the ID...but I'll be certain to take another look when I get the chance!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Sutton Bingham - Sun 24 Nov

A brief stop on my way back from Ferrybridge produced a male Pochard, which was a new arrival on West Pool and was also my 100th species of bird at Sutton Bingham this year!
A female Wigeon was also on West Pool, but soon vanished. Eighteen Wigeon were off the dam earlier in the morning.
Returning to the reservoir mid-afternoon I again walked the water's edge from the site of the old hide to the car park and back. Three Little Grebes were at the southern end and a single Teal and three Wigeon were seen.
From the car park a Peregrine caused mass panic amongst the gathered gulls and local corvids. A small number of Redwings and Fieldfares were noted and a Meadow Pipit flew overhead. The water's edge provided a Chiffchaff and a Kingfisher, and a couple of Snipe were flushed. My second sighting of a Water Rail at the reservoir in a week rounded off the visit.

Ferrybridge - Sun 24 Nov

A trip down to the coast this morning, but it ended up being a somewhat truncated journey down to Ferrybridge. There were not many Dark-bellied Brent Geese present, and there was certainly no sign of any Black Brants, so a frustrating start.
With the tide being in I only connected with a few waders, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone making up the small flock. Around a dozen Mediterranean Gulls were seen and looked as smart as ever in their snow-white winter plumage.
A passing Peregrine caused a bit of alarm and a couple of Raven passed overhead.

Sutton Bingham - Sat 23 Nov

A couple of visits to the local patch today, the first just before lunch proved to be fairly productive. I took a walk from the site of the hide along the water's edge to the car park and back. A very flighty flock of eleven Wigeon were seen from the southern causeway before they took to the air and headed north. A small flock of five equally skittish Teal were seen from the Canoe Club. I managed a new Sutton Bingham year tick as two Lapwing flew over. Also in the sky a total of three Raven and a couple of soaring Sparrowhawks, a male and female judging by the size difference.
West Pool hosted a single Little Grebe, a Meadow Pipit passed over the car park and a couple of Kingfishers were seen whizzing over the water's surface. The willows just south of the car park hosted at least four Chiffchaffs.
Returning to site late in the afternoon proved less beneficial, though the Wigeon flock had re-gathered opposite the site of the old hide and now numbered thirteen birds, and four Little Grebes were present at the extreme south of the reservoir.
The northern end of the reservoir played host to a mass of gulls, with several hundred present. Despite scanning though the flock, I could not find anything unusual. Finally, a Water Rail was heard squealing from the vegetation on the edge of West Pool.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 17 Nov

This afternoon I went up to Ham Wall RSPB reserve, my first visit to the Somerset Levels for a couple of months. Avoiding the masses gathered to see the Starling roost I walked out to the second viewing platform where the only bird of note was a Marsh Harrier! There were a few winter duck around, though not massive numbers and a few Lapwing were also present. As well a couple of decent Starling flocks whirling about over the reed beds a good number of Pied Wagtails also passed overhead along with some winter thrushes.

Sutton Bingham - Sat 16 Nov & Sun 17 Nov

A late afternoon visit today and a walk from the hide, or at least where the hide used to be as it was missing when I turned up! No great loss as it was in a bad state or repair and you couldn't actually see anything from it anyway. I followed the water's edge up as far as the car park and then back again. here was very little on the water but at the car park a Kingfisher whizzed by. Pick of the day was a very obliging Water Rail that was seen just south of the car park for a few minutes before finally vanishing in to the vegetation. This was the first Water Rail I'd seen at SBR for years and was by far the best views I'd had here. A single Chiffchaff was feeding in the willows under which the rail was skulking.
Back toward the southern end a flock of eleven Teal flew by looking nervous and upon scanning the pylons I realised why as a Peregrine was perched atop one of them plucking its dinner! Overhead a single Meadow Pipit and small numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings passed by. An adult and juvenile Mute Swan were also present.
A follow-up trip on Sunday morning was much less productive, though the Peregrine was again noted. I concentrated on the southern end where a couple of Teal and five Wigeon were seen. A large flock of Woodpigeons suddenly took to the air and must have numbered at least three hundred birds, quite a site!
Among the trees a feeding flock of birds contains a couple of Treecreepers and a Coal Tit as well as several Goldcrests and a few Redwing. I failed to find anything unusual amongst the commoner birds today though.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Studland & Arne RSPB - Sun 10 Nov

A day out with the family in Dorset today and it started just north of Studland where we took a walk along the beach to try and find a Surf Scoter. After getting rough directions from a couple of birders I soon located the bird feeding amongst a large number of Great Crested Grebes. As always I tried to get a few pictures, though it seemed that every time I clicked the camera on my phone the bird vanished in the swell!
Also in Brand's Bay a Great Northern Diver and several Red-Breasted Mergansers. There were also a good number of Dark-bellied Brent Geese and Shelduck present and a couple of Grey Plover flew over.
After our walk in the brisk wind we drove back to Studland village and parked in Middle Beach car park before getting a well deserved snack before playtime on the beach. Whilst walking along I noticed a couple of Chiffchaffs feeding in the trees behind the beach huts. Unfortunately I didn't have time to investigate the area in more detail, instead I had to settle for a quick look for Ring-necked Parakeets. I was pretty gutted to find the trees in which the parakeets had usually been found had been removed for some reason, so I drew a blank with regards to seeing any but I did hear one bird calling as we got back to the car.
After a brief trip in to Wareham for some lunch we spent the afternoon at Arne RSPB. A walk out to the beach at Shipstal Point failed to produce much in the way of birds until we actually reached the beach where an adult Yellow-legged Gull was on the water. I guess a raptor must have passed over the saltmarsh because a large number of Wigeon and Teal suddenly appeared and a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits joined them.
With time getting on we then headed back to the car. A Mistle Thrush and a few Fieldfares passed overhead and as we reached the small church I found a Firecrest...though it was typically mobile in the canopy for most of the time. That being said it rounded off a lovely day out.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Sutton Bingham - Wed 6 Nov

I popped out late afternoon and took a look at the reservoir and couldn't believe my eyes when I found a Great Northern Diver off the dam and viewable from the northern causeway! This is the first record for the site and unbelievably the second species of diver at Sutton Bingham Reservoir this year. The bird showed very well, if somewhat distantly, for the duration of my stay with a slight exception when it swam out of view for ten minutes. I did attempt a couple of record shots, but poor late afternoon autumnal light, distance, and a bad photographer meant I could only produce this!
Also present this afternoon, four Tufted Duck were on West Pool and a single Redwing flew over. As the light started to fade so the gulls arrived in their masses. I gave up counting Black-headed Gulls but there were at least five hundred on the water. Amongst them at least twenty Common Gulls and several larger gulls.
I left for home after a final look at the Great Northern Diver and a pretty chuffed feeling having found my second site first in a month. Hard work pays off it seems.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Sutton Bingham - Sun 3 Nov

An hour long visit mid-morning produced one of those birding dilemmas when you find something and are pretty sure you know what it is, but it does not quite show you exactly what you want to see to nail the identification without doubt. So a female Wigeon on West Pool had me convinced it was an American Wigeon due to colouration of plumage, etc. but whilst watching it, it just sat on the water doing very I was unable to see anything in the way of underwing colouration or any wing bars! If only it had given me a little flap!
Other than this cryptic duck I saw very little whilst on site. The southern end of the reservoir produced a fly-over Meadow Pipit and a Raven. Three or so Bullfinches were seen and a flock of eleven Snipe wheeled around before vanishing in to the vegetation somewhere.
Also of note today, a Red Admiral and a Clouded Yellow on the wing still...both looking extremely smart.
When I got home I received a text from a fellow birder:
"Fem. US wigeon west pool 11am. 99% sure. Dark eye and prom. white wing bar"
If only I'd spent a little longer staring at it and not rushing off I may well have got on to that wing bar too!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Porthgwarra - Thurs 31 Oct

Now here comes a tale of everything falling on to place. I had provisionally booked today as a days holiday, but a project I was working on had overrun somewhat so I was considering cancelling my day off...that was until I got a text on Wednesday night asking if I fancied a trip to Cornwall. So after sorting various bits and pieces I was all set for an early start. Leaving home at 4.30am I met up with friends Andy and Barry and at 8.00am we were parking the car at Porthgwarra in Cornwall.
We were here for one reason, a Hermit Thrush! Now this is where things get a little interesting. Within half an hour of us arriving on site the call went up and I sprinted up the road in time to see the bird in flight before it vanished in to the vegetation. Result! Life tick, etc. However, although the view I had was enough to ID the bird I felt I'd like better views and what's more Andy and Barry missed it completely.
What followed was an at times tedious but ultimately rewarding four hour wait for the bird to show again, and when it did we were afforded crippling views of this rare North American thrush as it fed on the ground. Hermit Thrush in the bag good and proper.
Whilst waiting for the Hermit Thrush to reappear I noted several Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Skylarks passing overhead. A couple of Ravens were also seen and within the vegetation a couple of Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and a Water Rail were heard...but nothing to compare to what we had come for!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Sutton Bingham, Ferrybridge & Portland - Sun 27 Oct

A morning out and a brief stop at Sutton Bingham on my way to Portland proved successful as I found a redhead Goosander off the Sailing Club...and this was, believe it or not, a year tick! A drake Tufted Duck moulting out of eclipse plumage was also present on the water, whilst overhead I had single flyovers of Skylark and Meadow Pipit.
Off then to the coast and after negotiating Weymouth traffic I stopped off at Ferrybridge. It was blowing a gale but I did manage to scope the few birds that were present. No sign of any Black Brants amongst the Dark-bellied Brent Geese, but there were at least thirty Mediterranean Gulls and eight Bar-tailed Godwits.
A pager message then pulled me away to Penn's Weare just to the east of Wakeham on Portland where a few Ring Ouzels had been seen. A short drive later and I was trying to locate the birds but not having much success. Fortunately I bumped in to the finder who gave me directions and after a very brisk walk I had found the correct area and within minutes two Ring Ouzels showed well, despite a female Merlin flying by!
Unfortunately time was against me so I had to rush back home meaning missing out Chesil Cove and any seawatching...this ultimately proved costly as some good birds were seen in the cove later in the day...never mind, next time maybe?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Gore Hill - Sun 20 Oct

A trip up to Gore Hill this afternoon and in blustery conditions there were some good numbers of birds around if somewhat lacking in variety. The stubble field that I walked around held a flock of sixty or so Linnets, and at least fifty Skylarks, the highlight though was a single Woodlark in with the Skylark flock. Singles of Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer flew over, as did a Meadow Pipit. On the ground half a dozen Red-legged Partridge were seen, while a lone Raven drifted overhead. A good walk and enough in the way of birds to keep one interested throughout.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 20 Oct

An hour on site this morning and again I concentrated on the southern end of the reservoir and again it was pretty quiet. I did locate a nice feeding flock of tits, but they stayed deep in the vegetation and were ridiculously mobile. Overhead a single Raven, a couple of Meadow Pipits and two alba Wagtails flew south, whilst on the water a handful of Teal were flushed. The only other birds of note were a single Snipe seen briefly in flight and a Kingfisher which was heard but not seen. The most interesting sighting of the day came in the form of an immaculate Clouded Yellow, a nice burst of colour on an otherwise dreary day.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Sutton Bingham - Wed 16 Oct

Real case of chalk and cheese today. Following on from such a productive day on Sunday today at the reservoir was a major anti-climax! I spent a good couple of hours on site in the afternoon working the same areas I had covered at the weekend and saw hardly anything in the way of birds. From the northern causeway a Little Egret was seen and a Little Grebe was a new arrival.
A walk along the reservoir from the hide to the car park and back produced just one Chiffchaff which was heard and not seen and a single Meadow Pipit.
The southern end of the reservoir which was such good value on Sunday was almost completely devoid of birds. A single drake Teal was seen and a small flock of seven Stock Doves were seen feeding in one of the ploughed fields adjacent to the reservoir.
And that was that! No idea where everything had gone...let's hope for better next time!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Sutton Bingham - Sun 13 Oct

I spent most of the morning at Sutton Bingham Reservoir today in an attempt to find something different and cheer myself up as I've been struggling with a cough and cold over the past few days.
I started out by walking from the hide along the water's edge to the car park and back. There was a little bit of visible migration as three Swallows passed through heading south, whilst heading west my first winter thrushes of the autumn, with six Fieldfares and three small flocks of Redwings (a total of seventeen birds). A small number of Meadow Pipits also passed though, but no more than half a dozen birds and a single Grey Wagtail also flew south.
A small flock of eight Wigeon flew in from the north and landed on the water, and some thirty minutes later a flock of twelve flew north (the original eight were nowhere to be seen so I presume they made up the bulk of this second flock).
As I neared the car park a large flock of Goldfinches were feeding on the scrubby vegetation, and a single Siskin was in with them. I then found a bird I'd not seen at Sutton Bingham for years, a male Yellowhammer was calling from a small bush. From the car park a Little Egret was seen on the far bank whilst at least two Kingfishers were interacting and a Chiffchaff skulked around. Returning to the car I flushed a Snipe from the water's edge, counted thirty eight Great Crested Grebes and watched a Kestrel fly north.
My second circuit was round the southern end of the reservoir where I was hopeful something might be lurking. I soon found a large flock of Long-tailed Tits, some thirty or so birds, and mixed in with them a few Goldcrests, Treecreepers, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Chiffchaffs...and then something else popped in to view. It was one of those special moments when I realised that I'd found a national scarcity and a patch tick (in fact I believe it is a first for the site) as a very smart Yellow-browed Warbler gave itself up feeding amongst the bushes and trees. I watched the bird for some five minutes as the diagnostic wing bars and eye-stripe showed brightly against the greenish plumage. What a little cracker!
It was with a real spring in my stride that I headed back to the car and home for a well-deserved lunch.
NB: Unfortunately the Yellow-browed Warbler was in an area of the reservoir that has little public access...sorry.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Wyke Regis - Sun 6 Oct

A really wonderful morning with clear skies and hardly a breeze, so I set off for Weymouth and in particular Wyke Regis. Arriving on site I parked at the top end of Camp Road and planned on a walk before the inevitable twitch! Walking south towards Bridge Camp there were several Meadow Pipits and Chiffchaffs about along with a continual aerial presence of Swallows and House Martins. One of the many horse paddocks contained a White Wagtail.
Looking back towards the east I could see a line of birds looking my way, and within seconds my phone rang as Somerset birder and birding mate Dave Hellier gave me ring to tell me I really ought to be over that I hot-footed it around to where he was.
After a quick catch up I then had to wait a while before the birds I had come to see finally put in an appearance. Firstly, a juvenile Red-backed Shrike showed well, if a bit distant, and then I was treated to some good views of a Red-breasted Flycatcher! At one point both birds could be seen together. So a result all round. I had then considered a walk over to Little Sea on The Fleet or even Portland but a quick check of the time ruled both of these out and it was off home instead.

Sutton Bingham - Sat 5 Oct

Finally, a chance to get out and do some birding after three weeks of weekend commitments have ruled out any chances to go and see some feathered friends. So this afternoon I stayed local and spent a couple of hours "on patch" at Sutton Bingham Reservoir.
Parking at the southern end I took a walk round the tail-end of the reservoir. There were very few warblers present today compared to my visits a few weeks ago, so I guess most have moved through now. A small party of six Teal took to the air as I passed and three Wigeon also put in an appearance, so some winter duck back already!
A ploughed field alongside the eastern side held good numbers of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails as well as at least half a dozen White Wagtails. A Linnet flew over and landed on a telegraph wire and everything got spooked when a Hobby flew through heading south at a rate of knots.
A Raven was briefly on one of the pylons and another brief bird was a Kingfisher as it darted from vegetation along the water's edge.
Two Little Egrets could be seen from the northern end of the reservoir and were the only birds of interest in that area.
Also today, as I crossed one area I was amazed by the number of Small Coppers present, and they were all in amazing condition. I counted forty-eight individuals, and surely missed several too. A very smart Clouded Yellow passed though and other butterflies included Comma, Speckled Wood and Small Tortoiseshell.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Chard Reservoir - Wed 18 Sep

A family trip out this afternoon and a very enjoyable walk around Chard Reservoir, with the added bonus of a Grey Phalarope! Now while phalaropes tend to be pretty tame birds I struggled, with no sign of it when we first arrived at the hide we lingered for quarter of an hour before going for a walk, a Common Sandpiper and a couple of Teal were seen from the hide.
Halfway round the reservoir we stood on the shoreline and I 'scoped back towards the bay where the bird was loitering. Luckily I saw the bird briefly in flight before it landed in the water and did typical Grey Phalarope things! We finished out walk but did take a another look from the hide where I had closer but briefer views of the bird as well as a Kingfisher that whizzed by.
The plan to head on down to Seaton to see a Spotted Crake was blown out of the water as time was against us so it was back home for dinner instead!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Sutton Bingham - Wed 18 Sep

I missed a call last night telling me of a major Sutton Bingham rarity, a Red-throated Diver, at the reservoir from the hide in the evening. What followed was a fitful night's sleep and an early start as I arrived on site at 7.00am in the rain. After drawing a blank from the hide, though I did see four Mandarin, I drove back to the northern causeway in case the bird had moved up the reservoir looking for deeper hadn't, and a Little Egret was scant consolation. So I walked along the shoreline from the car park back towards the hide, a Snipe flew over and so too did a couple of Grey Wagtails. Finally, after forty minutes of searching I found my quarry! A very smart summer-plumaged adult Red-throated Diver!
You can just about make out that this is the bird, it was distant, in the rain and dark!
The rain was falling, the light was poor, my feet were wet, and I was pushing it for getting to work on time, but it was well worth it...cracking bird and a patch tick...result!

Sutton Bingham - Sat 14 Sep & Sun 15 Sep

A few short but sweet visits to the reservoir over the weekend produced a few birds of note. Saturday morning meant a flying five minute stop on my way to work and my reward came in the form of two Hobbies over the back of West Pool.
A return visit in the afternoon and I spent a couple of hours working the south of the reservoir. There were lots of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers about of various ages and it was good fun checking each one and seeing the amount of variation. What was presumably a family party of five Ravens passed overhead and a total of three Kingfishers were seen (one at the southern end and two chasing each other from the northern causeway). The adult Yellow-legged Gull was showing well near the Canoe Club, it was first seen last weekend, and this must be at least seven or eight years that this individual has returned to the site in the autumn.
Sunday morning and an hour on site yielded the first bit of visible migration of the autumn, with two Grey Wagtails and four Meadow Pipits passing over. There were still lots of Chiffchaffs about and over the water a large number of Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins were feeding.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Sutton Bingham - Wed 4 Sep & Thu 5 Sep

It's been pretty quiet at the reservoir over recent weeks, and with the water level still very high there is going to be little or no chance of any decent Autumn wader passage on site this year. Wednesday afternoon did bring in a bit of interest though as a phone call mid-afternoon sent me straight to the reservoir where I connected with a winter-plumaged Black Tern as it fed off the dam and occasionally perched on one of the buoys. Always a bit distant but a great bird to get on the patch and never guaranteed. Also this afternoon a total of six Little Egrets.
A brief visit before work on Thursday morning failed to produce the Black Tern (though it did show itself later in the morning), and only one Little Egret was seen. However, a Hobby flew over West Pool and landed in a tree and a call from over my head alerted me to a fly-over Ringed Plover as it flew strongly north-west.
(Other sightings of interest recently have been limited to a single Common Sandpiper at the tail-end of August).

Monday, 26 August 2013

Meare Heath NR - Mon 26 Aug

A Glossy Ibis had been seen at Meare Heath and then Ham Wall RSPB yesterday, but despite the bird being first seen at 12 noon news was not in the public domain until 3.00pm for some reason (I guess the finders had no access to mobile services as happens sometimes), hence I didn't know about it when I headed down to Black Hole Marsh yesterday afternoon. Never mind, no harm done as I arrived at Meare Heath at 9.30am and soon connected with the Glossy Ibis as it fed on the drained lagoon. There were plenty of other birds of interest too, with a Greenshank frequenting the back of the lagoon, a Ringed Plover on the small island area, and a Great White Egret. A Garganey was also present, but seemed to spend most of it's time sleeping, and another wader which someone told me was a Curlew Sandpiper was in fact a Ruff!
Carrying on to Noah's Lake I eventually tracked down the Osprey that's been present for a few days as it loafed around on a dead tree and another Great White Egret was seen. Two Raven harassed a Lesser Black-backed Gull before heading west.
Back towards the car park then, and as I neared the lagoon all the waders took to the air. Fortunately this made it easy to pick out the one with a white rump and as they all landed I had some very nice views of the real Curlew the company of two Ruff!
The supporting cast today consisted of several Black-tailed Godwits on the lagoon, a couple of Kingfishers and some pinging Bearded Tits which decided to stay in the reeds! So all in all a really good couple of hours out.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Black Hole Marsh - Sun 25 Aug

Down to Devon this afternoon and a visit to Black Hole Marsh to try and connect with a couple of migrant waders. As it happens it was not too difficult as within five minutes of being in the island hide I had added Curlew Sandpiper (see below) and Little Stint to the year list, a partially summer-plumaged former and two of the latter.
There were plenty of other waders present too, with half a dozen or so Common Sandpipers, a similar number of Green Sandpipers and Dunlin and a handful or Ringed Plover. A Greenshank was also present and a Yellow Wagtail was heard as it flew over south.
Unfortunately I didn't have time to hang around this afternoon, so after less than an hour on site it was back home!

Sutton Bingham - Sun 25 Aug

Another morning visit to Sutton Bingham today and again all the action (what little there was) was at the southern end of the reservoir. The highlight was a Green Sandpiper that flew south calling, but with nowhere to feed due to the continued high water levels the bird simply kept going!
A Raven also flew over, whilst the remaining interest was found in common birds flocking together in a large flock moving through the trees feeding. This flock seemed to contain loads of Chiffchaffs along with a few Willow Warblers and four species of tit. A Nuthatch and Treecreeper were heard, as was a Bullfinch.
There wasn't anything of note at all from the northern end of the reservoir.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Sutton Bingham - Sat 24 Aug

A quick visit today and it didn't really produce anything different from yesterday. The female Tufted Duck was again seen at the southern end, where up to five Ravens were seen (one or two pairs and a single bird). There were lots of hirundines feeding over the water, including a few Sand Martins. The only other interest came in the form of two Reed Buntings near the Canoe Club and a couple of Little Egrets seen in flight off the northern causeway.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Sutton Bingham - Fri 23 Aug

I spent about ninety minutes this afternoon at the reservoir, concentrating on the southern end of the site. A couple of Raven were seen sat on the top of one of the pylons an piqued my interest. However, it was pretty much routine fair for the rest of the day, with the exception of a couple of juvenile-type Mandarin and a female Tufted Duck!
As I continued around the bottom end of the reservoir I came across a large flock of feeding birds consisting of tits and warblers, with some thirty or so birds flitting through the trees and feasting on insects...but try as I might I couldn't find any scarce migrants among the common species.
A Kingfisher was heard a couple of times but failed to show itself, and a Little Egret was on the shore opposite the Sailing Club.

Arne RSPB & Studland - Thu 22 Aug

A family day today, and as we had arranged to meet "The In-Laws" at Studland in the afternoon we spent the morning at Arne RSPB Reserve. A walk around Arne was not overly productive on the bird front, a small number of Sandwich Terns and Common Terns off Shipstal Point. A walk around Combe Heath was slightly more interesting with at least three Spotted Flycatchers feeding with a couple of Treecreepers and a smart looking Willow Warbler contrasting nicely with a grotty Chiffchaff! On the heath proper a Dartford Warbler was heard calling but failed to show itself and a family of Stonechats was being rather vocal. There were also several Graylings on the wing.
Leaving Arne we drove round to Studland and met up with the rest of the family for a chilled out afternoon on the beach...not really my thing at all, but I did see a Clouded Yellow fly past and at least a dozen Mediterranean Gulls flew south. Interestingly there seemed to be a fairly constant passage, albeit small numbers, of Woodpigeons heading north for the three hours we were on the beach. Despite the close proximity of the Ring-necked Parakeet site, I felt I couldn't really vanish for a while to hunt them out!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Porthgwarra - Sun 18 Aug

I had planned to partake in a pelagic trip from Penzance this morning with four friends, but a call from the Skipper of the boat on Friday morning put pay to that due to a forecast 3 metre swell. So not to be put off we still main the trip down to Cornwall. We arrived at Porthgwarra before 9.00am and started our sea watching vigil soon afterwards...and there we stayed until 2.00pm!
As was to be expected given the weather conditions it was a fairly slow day (with the exception of a constant stream of Gannets and Manx Shearwaters). That being said during the five hours I did see singles of Balearic Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, and Great Skua (that had a bit of fun harassing a juvenile Herring Gull for a few minutes). I was also lucky enough to pick out three Storm Petrels, though trying to get anyone else on to them proved an impossible task. More routine fair was provided by a few Kittiwakes and a single Mediterranean Gull.
There was little to see on the land itself other than a few Rock Pipits, Meadow Pipits and Linnets, but we did get lucky when a pair of Choughs decided to spend a bit of time on the rocks near our sea watching spot.
We were also treated to a host of butterfly activity, with around ten species seen. I must have seen at least seven Clouded Yellows and there were also lots of Wall Browns, Graylings and Common Blues. A single Painted Lady was also seen as well as many of the commoner species.
A brief stop on the way home at the Hayle Estuary amounted to nothing as the tide was in so we headed straight back home after an enjoyable day out.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Brownsea Island - Mon 12 Aug

I took a trip down to Brownsea Island today and had a wonderful time with the family. It was also pretty good for wildlife, especially on the butterfly front with loads on the wing. The highlight was without a doubt three sightings of Clouded Yellows, one on the northern beach and two together in the garden of the café (which also sold very nice ice cream!). Other butterflies seen today included Gatekeeper, Holly Blue and Speckled Wood.
Walking through the trees we were lucky enough to see two Red Squirrels.
On the bird front a visit to the DWT reserve enabled us access to the hides to scan the lagoon. A good number of waders were present including five Spotted Redshank:
Greenshank, seven Avocet, a Common Sandpiper, a couple of Turnstone and large numbers of Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit:
There were still loads of Common Terns and Sandwich Terns present and at least half a dozen Mediterranean Gulls were seen, mostly adults but some younger birds.
There were few woodland species noted, but a juvenile Green Woodpecker kept us entertained whilst we ate our picnic lunch.
After a wonderful time on the island I made a brief stop at Studland on the way home, but failed to see any Ring-necked Parakeets...guess I'll need to head this way again then!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 11 Aug

A fairly quick visit this afternoon to Ham Wall and I was greeted by a Hobby over the car park as I arrived. Straight to the second viewing platform (with a pause en route to look at a Marsh Harrier) and a scan of the area. Around twenty Black-tailed Godwits were present, though most of these were seen just before I got to the platform as they roosted amongst Black-headed Gulls.
From the platform proper I saw a very brief Wood Sandpiper and a couple of Green Sandpipers. A single Snipe also gave itself up and that pretty much was all I had time to look at as I needed to get back home before it got too late!

Sutton Bingham - Sun 11 Aug

I spent less than an hour at the reservoir this morning due to time constraints and I spent the entire time around the southern causeway, parking just past the causeway itself and walking back as far as the hide.
The main area of interest was the hedgerow opposite where I parked where I could see a few birds flitting around. To my surprise one of these was a Common Redstart, only the second time I have seen this species at SBR. If you look really closely at the "record shot" below you may just be able to see the orangey tail of the bird!
Also present a Spotted Flycatcher (another bird I don't see every year on patch) and a Lesser Whitethroat amongst commoner fair. A couple of Sand Martins were keeping the local Swallows company. So some new migrants passing through the site this morning.
A couple of Common Sandpipers were flushed from the water's edge and yesterday's Little Grebes were still present in the far southern corner, today alongside a couple of Tufted Ducks.
Near the hide there was plenty of bird activity, although I must have seen nearly twenty birds they were all either Chiffchaffs or Long-tailed Tits.
Other activity today included my first Silver-washed Fritillary that I'd ever seen at Sutton Bingham.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Sutton Bingham - 10 Aug 13

I spent a couple of hours at my local patch this morning, something I've not done for quite some time. I walked pretty much the length of the reservoir and whilst there was nothing scarce around a Common Sandpiper was on the northern causeway before flying south (I later heard it at the southern end of the reservoir but didn't see it again). The only other slightly less common birds seen today were two Little Egrets near the Sailing Club.
Whilst there may not have been anything much on the rarity front, I did see plenty of evidence of successful breeding this year at SBR. A small family of Reed Warblers was a pleasant sight whilst a juvenile Green Woodpecker put on a nice show near the hide.
Near the car park a female Reed Bunting was seen with a couple of fledglings, a Coot was present with one youngster, and Great Crested Grebes seem to have faired much better this year with a good number of young present, ranging in ages too with some almost as large as the adults and another pair with young still on their backs, and a couple of Little Grebes were also seen. A Sparrowhawk zoomed low over the water and was the only raptor I saw.
One of the Herring Gulls present spent about ten minutes yawning whilst perched on one of the's a hard life loafing around being a gull!
On the butterfly front I finally saw my first Common Blues of the year, though there were just two seen. Small Coppers were slightly more numerous and I also saw a couple of Gatekeepers amongst more routine fair. It was certainly an enjoyable time "on patch" today.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Radipole RSPB - Fri 9 Aug

A morning in south Dorset and a visit to the RSPB reserve of Radipole in Weymouth. Arriving at 9.30am almost the first birds I saw were a couple of juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls in the car park, present briefly before taking flight.
I then set off for a walk around the reserve. Part way along the paths towards the North Hide I heard a Green Sandpiper calling and looked up to see it fly south. There was little of note from the hide itself, though I did hear a Water Rail call and a Reed Warbler showed well.
Retracing my steps I then walked around the "Buddleia Loop" where there were good numbers of butterflies with the pick being a Painted Lady. I also saw a couple of Jersey Tiger moths.
The eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard was showing well from the small viewpoint along the path alongside some of the more usual duck species and a few Sand Martins passed through.
Back to the Visitor Centre for a well-deserved cup of coffee and a Little Egret perched on one of the wooden bars opposite the centre. And that was that for a nice morning out.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Ham Wall RSPB - Sat 3 Aug

Back to the Levels this afternoon and Ham Wall this time. A brief look failed to produce any Little Bitterns, but I didn't really linger at the viewpoint but rather made straight for the second viewing platform. Dodging the thunder storms I did pick out a few waders including two Dunlin, at least two Green Sandpipers, three Snipe and a Black-tailed Godwit of the islandica race. I also had a distant view of a juvenile Yellow Wagtail and another Garganey.
As the rain set in I decided to make it quickly back to the car and on the way saw a female Marsh it happened this was the final decent bird I saw of the day. A pretty good day on the levels today.

Meare Heath NR - Sat 3 Aug

A morning visit to the Somerset Levels and rather than a walk out across Ham Wall I headed east on to Meare Heath. Almost the first bird I saw was a fly-over Great White Egret, closely followed by a female Marsh Harrier soaring high in the sky. Continuing onwards a Bittern flew over the path ahead of me, affording wonderful views.
The "drained" lagoon had quite a bit of water in it and as a result there were no waders other than several Lapwing. A look out over Noah's Lake produced nothing apart from a couple more Great White Egrets so I retraced my steps and returned to the car.
Another Bittern fly-by was appreciated, especially as this bird was calling in flight, quite a different sound from the usual booming. A male Marsh Harrier was quartering the reeds, and another female type was also seen. The latter flushing the duck gathered on the lagoon and a Garganey was amongst the masses and rounded the morning off nicely.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Black Hole Marsh - Thu 1 Aug

The start of a new month saw me make a trip to Devon and a visit to Black Hole Marsh near Seaton. I arrived just before 9.00am and took a walk out to the Island Hide where I was told that the Pectoral Sandpiper which was present on Tuesday night was still about (the last I heard it had flown after being spooked by a Sparrowhawk). So luck was with me this morning and a collected a nice year tick with this smart Trans-Atlantic wader.
There were plenty of birds about today and waders were obviously the most notable. I counted at least six Common Sandpipers, an adult Ringed Plover, twenty or so Dunlin (including a very distinct individual with a bill almost as long as that of a Curlew Sandpiper), a Snipe, several Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits, and a minimum of seven Green Sandpipers.
I then took a walk across to the Tower Hide. I didn't loiter here too long and didn't really see anything different, but as I left the hide a Kingfisher flew across the path over my head and skimmed across the scrapes.
I also saw a lot of  butterflies this morning, with loads of Green-veined Whites and a smaller number of Gatekeepers and a couple of Commas and Red Admirals.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Ham Wall RPSB - Wed 31 Jul

It took me an age to get to Ham Wall this morning due to a traffic accident at Ashcott village. After two U-turns due to traffic congestion and another because of a road closure, it was a case of fourth time lucky and eventually I was parked at the Sharpham end of the RSPB reserve and was able to get out for a walk.
I made straight for the second viewing platform, but did stop at one point as I could hear some Bearded Tits calling from the reeds, and I did manage to see one bird as it flitted across the reeds.
On arriving at the viewing platform I had a good scan across and was surprised by the number of waders. A flock of around one hundred Black-tailed Godwits were present and Lapwings numbered around fifty birds. Slightly more unusual, two Greenshank and two Dunlin, and a couple of Green Sandpipers rounded off the wader contingent.
A Garganey flew in from the left and dropped on to the water before vanishing behind some vegetation and rounded off a good morning out despite the traffic issues!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Lodmoor RSPB - Mon 29 Jul

This morning I headed off to Weymouth and took a walk around the RSPB reserve of Lodmoor. Walking anti-clockwise around the reserve from Beachdown Way the first birds of note were not really seen until I got the scrape opposite the car park. An adult Mediterranean Gull was resting and a Common Sandpiper and two Black-tailed Godwits were present.
Continuing onwards I stopped near the tern rafts where a flock of 37 Dunlin were seen and four Sandwich Terns were resting on the fencing.
Further on again and I was surprised to see a female Ruddy Shelduck and a second bird which appeared to be an Australian Shelduck, though it was roosting and seemed a little too pale, so I guess some sort of hybrid is probably the most likely option.
Another Dunlin was present from the "hump" on Beachdown Way as were two more Common Sandpipers. Alongside an Oystercatcher two Whimbrel were roosting. I then carried on back towards the car, hearing a Bearded Tit calling along the way. As I neared the car a Sparrowhawk caused a bit of a stir over the reserve, sending most of the gulls in to the air alongside eight Black-tailed Godwits. All in all a pretty nice start to the day.

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 28 Jul

A morning visit to Ham Wall today and I was pleasantly surprised to see two of my mates from Reading when I arrived at the "Little Bittern Viewpoint"! After a nice chat with Nigel and Mickey I left them waiting for the Little Bitterns and made my way straight to the second viewing platform where I bumped in to a couple of other friends. Another bit of banter followed and then a bit of birding. Before too long I had finally added Green Sandpiper to the year list...and over the next half an hour I connected with three individuals.
A Bittern was seen very briefly, in fact, to be honest, I just saw it's wing as it dropped in to the reeds! I also saw both male and female Marsh Harriers, and three Snipe and several Lapwing were also seen from the viewing platform.
With plenty of young birds about as well it made for a pleasant morning out.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Ferrybridge & Hilfield - Sun 21 Jul

My planned early start somehow evaporated in to nothing so it was gone 9.00am by the time I arrived at Ferrybridge this morning. I paid for an hour's long stay in the car park and was soon scanning the mud looking to see what waders may be present.
A fair sized flock on Dunlin provided a bit of interest with nine Sanderling mixed amongst the flock adding a splash of colour with some very nice summer-plumaged birds. A few Ringed Plover were also present and the rockier areas held three Turnstone. A summer-plumaged Knot was another nice find as it fed in a channel in front of me (I over-looked it on several occasions).
A good number of Little Terns were flying around and alighting on the mud, including what appeared to be a fairly recently fledged bird. A total of at least forty-six Mediterranean Gulls were present and displayed various ages of plumage.
It was then back to the car and towards home, but I made a slight diversion to Hilfield where Honey Buzzard had been seen a few days earlier. I wasn't really expecting anything, but as I scanned the skies from the ridge I did see a Red Kite!
A walk around this small Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve produced a good number of butterflies which included Silver-washed Fritillary, Small Skipper and Ringlet. With time flying by I realised that I must get moving as I was visiting friends for lunch and thus ended a good morning out.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Lodmoor RSPB - Thu 18 Jul

A last minute decision on Wednesday night to book today off work turned out to be a good one as it gave me a chance to head down to Weymouth and visit the RSPB reserve of Lodmoor. Arriving just before 9.00am I headed straight for the "Band Stand" viewing point.
On arrival I was pleased to bump in to a few birders that I knew and after the normal pleasantries I concentrated on the small Dunlin flock and contained therein a very nice White-rumped Sandpiper!
This is only the second White-rumped Sandpiper that I've seen, and funnily enough the other one was also at Lodmoor RSPB way back in 2000.
So with the rarity safely ticked off I continued around the reserve. A couple of Greenshank were present and amongst the small number of gulls present there were a pair of summer-plumaged Mediterranean Gulls. A female Marsh Harrier was hunting over the reed beds, causing a bit of a stir amongst the residents!
Interestingly enough, there were around twenty Common Terns present. The colony had deserted overnight a month or so ago, but apparently several birds had just arrived. Whether or not they will attempt breeding again this late in the summer or not is anyone's guess.
Anyway, by now it was getting extremely warm, so it was straight back to the car and air-conditioning!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Hethfelton Wood - Sun 14 Jul

This morning I was trying to find a site for Woodlark...but I couldn't and so instead I found myself at Hethfelton Wood just outside of Wool where a walk in the morning sun failed to produce anything much in the way of birds other than a Raven soaring overhead, but did produce a few butterflies.
I saw a total of seven different species of butterfly, with Gatekeeper being new for the year as were at least four Silver-washed Fritillaries (which are always great to see)...and that pretty much sums up the morning!

Black Hole Marsh - Sat 13 Jul

Somewhere different this morning and a trip down to Devon and the Axe Estuary where I visited Black Hole Marsh in the hope of some early waders. It was mid-morning by the time I arrived and I spent about half on hour or so in the "Island Hide".
There certainly were a few waders about with the highlights being a juvenile Little Ringed Plover and a very flighty Whimbrel. There were at least half a dozen Common Sandpipers feeding around the edges of the marsh and a small number of Lapwings, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits.
One of the small islands hosted a hot and tired looking summer-plumaged Mediterranean Gull, which despite the stiflingly hot conditions still looked extremely smart!
To be perfectly honest I didn't really see much else, especially in the way of anything unusual or unexpected, and with it approaching midday it was obvious that any birds would be lying I headed back home.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Ham Wall RSPB & Meath Heath NR - Sun 7 Jul

After a very quiet day with regard to birds on Saturday (a returning Common Sandpiper at Sutton Bingham Reservoir being the only bird of note) I popped up to Ham Wall first thing on Sunday and was surprised to find the car park already full. An hour on site produced flight views of the female Little Bittern and then two males together!! I also had a Common Tern hawking over the reed beds and water whilst a female Marsh Harrier was seen perched in a bush. I was also lucky enough to get several good views of Bitterns, with three birds being seen including one stood out in the open...until I got my scope on it to take a picture that is when it vanished in to the reeds!
Back to the car park and on to Meare Heath where a Garden Warbler but on a good show. The drained lagoon held the usual suspects though no Great White Egrets were seen on this visit...a surprising occurrence nowadays. A Grass Snake was a nice sight as it crossed the track near me, and as I returned to the car I was treated to another fly-by Bittern and a handful of Bearded Tits darting over the reeds (though I heard several more calling). All in all a pretty good morning out in bright sunshine and temperatures hitting 30 degrees!

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Radipole RSPB - Sat 29 Jun

Down to the coast this afternoon and a visit to the RSPB reserve of Radipole Lake in Weymouth. I spent a couple of hours on the site and covered a fair bit of ground but there was not a massive amount around. Singing Cetti's Warblers were noticeable and I caught a view of a couple of Bearded Tits as they flew between patches of reeds.
I then spent a long time and walked what seemed like miles in an attempt to track down a drake Red-crested Pochard that had been seen earlier in the day. I drew a complete blank but managed to pick up a bit of info when I got back to the visitor centre (where a Common Sandpiper was feeding on the small island). So I set off for the north of the reserve and checked the channel that runs adjacent to Radipole Road. A female Marsh Harrier provided some interest and just as I was about to give up I found it, although just starting to moult in to eclipse plumage it was still a very smart duck and a nice end to a good day!

Ham Wall RSPB - Sat 29 Jun

Another attempt to try and see the breeding Little Bitterns at Ham Wall this morning, and this time I was successful! Within five minutes of arriving at the makeshift viewpoint I was lucky enough to see the female in flight over the reeds.
I then took a walk out to the second viewing platform where there were many fewer birds than on my last couple of visits. That being said I did see a couple of Hobbies and a Cuckoo was calling. Around half a dozen Lapwings were on the scrapes and the only other slightly unusual birds were a couple of Black-headed Gulls.
A female Marsh Harrier was quartering the reed beds and as I headed back towards the car I saw a male Marsh Harrier too. Another quick stop at the viewpoint produced brief flight views of the male Little Bittern. And to round off a good couple of hours a Great White Egret flew over the car park.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Morden Bog - Sun 23 Jun

Somewhere different for a morning walk today and a drive down to Dorset and an enjoyable stroll around Morden Bog. I was hoping for a few year ticks, but managed just the one as I was treated to some cracking views of two singing male Dartford Warblers...but I'd stupidly left my 'scope in the car so was unable to get any of my high-quality photos!!
A supporting cast of Tree Pipit and Linnet added interest whilst on the heathland whilst a few fly-over Siskin produced a splash of colour. A small family party of Mistle Thrushes were near the car as I completed the walk.
Very little else to see but there were half a dozen or so Small Heath butterflies on the wing.

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 16 Jun

Another trip up to the Avalon Marshes and another weekend of failing to see the Little Bitterns...hopefully when/if they start feeding young they will become a little more obliging. Anyway, in the meantime I had to settle for some more routine fair and yet again the second viewing platform provided the pick of the birds. A drake Garganey flew in and showed briefly before vanishing in to the reeds and a couple of Shelduck were present. Two Black-tailed Godwits were the only waders of note.
Over the reeds I saw a male Marsh Harrier and the now expected Bittern and Great White Egret (how times have changed!!). A Cuckoo was seen distantly, with at least one other heard calling. All in all a good afternoon out.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

West Bexington - Wed 12 Jun

When news broke yesterday of a Caspian Tern at West Bexington I waited with baited breath for news today. The good news was that the bird was still present...the bad news, despite having an afternoon off work I had other commitments so could not head out until 4.00pm. The drive south was dismal with thick fog and rain and by the time I got to the coast the rain was falling steadily. To add insult to injury I was told on arrival that the bird had flown off ten minutes earlier. A walk east for nearly a mile produced nothing but a Fulmar so it was back to the car park. Whilst debating what to do next a couple of birders I had been talking to and who had decided to head back towards the mere started waving frantically and a five minute sprint then followed. And there it was hawking over the mere before following the beach eastwards right past us...a cracking Caspian Tern and a UK tick to boot...result!!!

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 9 Jun

Yet another trip to Ham Wall and yet again I failed to see the elusive Little Bitterns! That being said I had a wonderful couple of hours out and about and bumped in to lots of Somerset birders.
On the bird front highlights included a couple of really good flight views of Bitterns, including one bird that treated me to a prolonged fly-past before alighting in to a reed bed. A Great White Egret also flew over.
From the second viewing platform I located two drake Garganey (one fast asleep with the other being a little more active) and two Shelduck amongst good numbers of wildfowl. A few Lapwing were also present from here along with single Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit.
I also saw a couple of Kingfishers as I walked back to the car and after chatting with a few mates I bumped in to headed back home for some much needed lunch!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Ham Wall RSPB & Meare Heath NNR - Wed 5 Jun

OK, so I guess everyone out there now knows why I've made three visits to Ham Wall in the past week...yes I was hoping to see the Little Bitterns...but I have failed every time! So what was present this afternoon, well a couple of Hobbies graced the skies and a Cuckoo was heard calling but there was not really much else about.
I decided to head back to the car park and take a walk out to Meare Heath and see if the drained lagoon held anything of interest. A total of fifty-three Black-tailed Godwits and twelve Lapwings accounted for the waders present. The birds of the day were fly-overs though, with a Bittern and Great White Egret both gracing the skies, albeit briefly, and before I knew it time was up and it was back home for dinner!

Thurlbear Quarrylands - Sat 1 Jun

This afternoon I made a flying visit to Thurlbear Quarrylands, just south of Taunton. I was hoping there might be some butterflies around as it was such a warm and sunny afternoon, but this was not to be the case. That being said during the thirty minutes I spent on site I was treated to that most stirring of summer songsters with three Nightingales blasting away from deep in the undergrowth. Unfortunately despite one of the birds singing from a bramble patch no more than six feet in front of me, it kept itself predictively hidden so I had to make do with simply enjoying the audio performance.

Ham Wall RSPB - Sat 1 Jun

A fairly early trip out today and I again found myself at Ham Wall. An enjoyable walk in the morning sun produced a few birds of quality with a few booming Bitterns and a couple of Marsh Harriers, including a sub-adult bird which has been making news on the Somerset Birds forum due to its missing flight feathers and damaged leg. As I walked on past the now famous "SVP", or second viewing platform, I located a single Spotted Flycatcher feeding up in the trees and looking rather smart (nothing like the thousand or birds that passed through Portland Bill this morning, but a single bird is better than nothing and was a year tick all the same!).
The walk back to the car failed to produce anything else out of the ordinary but it was good to get out and about on such a lovely day.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Ham Wall RSPB - Thu 30 May

An evening visit with one of my birding mates to Ham Wall RSPB reserve today. Arriving at about 7.10pm we enjoyed a good couple of hours on the reserve. A Great White Egret was showing well from the first viewing platform and a sub-adult male Marsh Harrier was hunting over the reed beds. At least three Bitterns were still booming away and there seemed to be a glut of Cuckoos with at least five seen and another couple heard. A good number of Swifts were hawking above us almost constantly and we also saw a couple of Hobbies (one perched up and a second whizzing past at a rate of knots). All in all an enjoyable evening out.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Acres Down - Sun 26 May

I had arranged a free morning with the sole intention of twitching a Roller in Hampshire, but just as I was setting off the bird flew north and failed to show again. So instead I spent the time at Acres Down in the hope of picking up some decent raptors. During the three or so hours I was on site I was treated to some pretty good views of at least six Goshawk, but I only saw Common sign today of any Honey Buzzards.
A male Whinchat was a nice surprise and two Hawfinch flew through. A Tree Pipit seemed to be in almost constant song whilst I was present and a couple of Hobbies also passed overhead. So I managed to add a couple more species to the year list, but I would have rather the Roller had stayed put!
Year list for 2013 now at 190 species.

Isles of Scilly - Thu 16 May to Thu 23 May

Our first family holiday and we spent a week on the Isles of Scilly. Sailing on board the Scillonian III from Penzance we had a really good crossing, though there was little action on the bird front, with a few Manx Shearwaters being the pick and four Bottle-nosed Dolphins providing some entertainment. We stayed on St Mary's and spent most of our time exploring this island.
Highlights on the bird front included a Bee-eater which was fairly vocal but failed to show itself over Porth Hellick. I found a male Hen Harrier one evening on Peninnis Head which was a bit of an unexpected find and the same area also held a few Whimbrel. A Common Sandpiper on rocks near Old Town was the only other wader that provided a little interest. A Cuckoo showed very well on Peninnis Head and was also heard a couple of times whilst we sat in a café in old Town. But despite the time of year there was little else out of the ordinary on the bird front on St Mary's.
We took two day trips, one to Tresco and another to St Agnes.
The Tresco day was lovely with cloudless skies and warm sun for the bulk of the day. A Roseate Tern was an unexpected find whilst we sat having a drink in Old Grimsby, but two small waders that flew over proved impossible to identify and a Golden Pheasant at the Abbey Gardens was hardly tick-able!
St Agnes was very quiet but we did enjoy a very tasty pasty at The Turk's Head! A very smart White Wagtail was the pick of the birds on this island.
I took an evening boat trip on the Monday night and this produced three Great Northern Divers, including two in summer plumage, and eventually a total of nine Puffins, though we had to cover a lot of water to finally find them.
So despite the lack of quality vagrants on the bird front we had a relaxing and enjoyable week away and I'm already looking forward to a return visit sooner rather than later!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Lodmoor RSPB & Briantspuddle - Sun 12 May

A morning out today and I headed to the coast and took a walk around the RSPB reserve at Lodmoor (though I did take a little diversion to Ferrybridge to add Little Tern to the year list!). I took the circular path around Lodmoor and spent around a hour or so on site. It was pretty quiet on the bird front with regards to variety. A Cuckoo showed well if distantly and loads of Swifts were feeding over the reserve. The reedbeds held lots of singing Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers, whilst the muddy areas produced just six Dunlin and seven Black-tailed Godwits. The Common Tern colony seemed to be doing well though with a conservative estimate of sixty or so birds present.
When I got back to the car I realised that there was still some time before I needed to be back at home, so I set off for Briantspuddle and another walk around the area of heathland near the village. I had a lot more joy today as a Tree Pipit showed well and as I continued along the path I could hear the distinctive purring of a Turtle Dove. Eventually I found the bird in question as it showed really well out in the open...and I had left my 'scope in the car! I did attempt a couple of record shots with my phone help against my binoculars!
Another Cuckoo was heard, though this one failed to show itself, and a male Yellowhammer looked very smart as it called from the top of a tree. As seems to be the case every time I visit this site there were a couple of singing Siskins in the pines. So a good morning out and four new birds on the year list.