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!