Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Sutton Bingham - Tue 28 Apr

With a little bit of time on my hands, having left for work early, I popped in to the reservoir for a quick look. Bright sunlight meant viewing the main reservoir from the northern causeway was a bit tricky so I checked out West Pool, which had been almost devoid of birdlife for the last few months. Today was slightly different when I stumbled upon a brown aythya duck, keeping close to the water's edge on the far side of the pool. I immediately noticed the white under-tail coverts and rounded back of the head...no sign of a crest. Chestnut brown in colour with a darker back and paler flanks, a dark eye and darkish bill. Was this a female/first-summer Ferruginous Duck? However, aythya hybrids are always a possibility and something didn't look quite right, was there a hint of Pochard in there somewhere? My gut instinct was telling me this was a hybrid, a real shame but the bill and forehead didn't look right for Ferruginous Duck and were more like Pochard. A quick Tweet to get news out and a couple of phone calls so others could check it out. I guess a few second opinions will nail it one way or the other.

UPDATE: I can confirm that the mystery aythya was indeed a hybrid, possibly Fudge x Pochard though it looked as if there could even be some Red-crested Pochard somewhere in it! A very interesting bird!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Meare Heath NNR - Sat 25 Apr

I had just arrived at work when the pager went off with a *Mega Alert* alerting me of a Hudsonian Godwit just up the road at Meare heath NNR on the Somerset Levels. What followed was the longest four hours I had ever spent sat at my desk, with a constant eye on Twitter and the RBA website keeping me abreast of the birds presence I finally set off and arrived on site soon after 1pm. The new car park was packed to capacity but fortunately I managed to squeeze in to the old car park at Ashcott Corner and walked out to view the drained lagoon, along with around 500 other birders!
When I first got on the bird it was fast asleep, though it did do a little preening before settling down again. So I walked on to take a look over Noah's Lake where I added Common Tern to the year list, with two birds flying around. A couple of Hobbies overhead were also new for the year and the now expected Great White Egrets, Bitterns and Marsh Harriers were all noted.
I then returned to the throng and the Hudsonian Godwit was now feeding but was working its way in to the left hand corner of the lagoon and was for the most part obscured from view. However, with a little patience I got some great views and was able to see all the distinguishing features, including the dark underwing when it had a go at a Black-tailed Godwit. I did try and get a couple of record shots, but was more interested in seeing the bird and appreciating this third for Britain.
The only other bird of note that I saw this afternoon was a Greenshank, there were loads of other quality birds around, but I didn't actually connect with any of them...not that I minded, I saw the important one!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Sutton Bingham - Sat 25 Apr

An extremely quick visit on the way to work this morning added Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler to the patch year list. The Whitethroat was singing away from the depths of the railway embankment and whilst extremely vocal did not actually show. The Sedge Warbler was equally elusive in the north-east corner of West Pool, giving about thirty seconds worth of song from deep within the vegetation. A single Common Sandpiper was on the northern causeway.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Sutton Bingham - Thu 23 Apr

I'd had a text message from fellow "Bingham Birder" James first thing to say he had a "Commic" Tern on one of the distant buoys viewed from the northern causeway, so I decided to pop up to the reservoir during my lunch break. No sign of the tern in question but I did see three Green Sandpipers on a pontoon near the Sailing Club, a nice year tick and the first I'd seen on the patch for a couple of years.
As I had a little time left before needing to get back to work I popped along to the Canoe Club to see if yesterday's Great White Egret might still be around, it wasn't! However, I did find two Little Terns, a Sutton Bingham tick for me and a real unexpected surprise! Unfortunately the birds flew to the southern end of the reservoir and were lost to view. A quick drive to the southern end failed to relocate them, I can only presume they carried on and were simply passing through. It would have been nice to have watched them for a little longer, but I was thrilled to get a patch tick, and I guess if yesterday's Great White Egret was "Patch Gold" today's Little Terns have got to be "Patch Platinum"!
Sutton Bingham year list for 2015 now at 81 species.

Sutton Bingham - Wed 22 Apr

"Patch Gold" today when I found a Great White Egret during an afternoon visit to the reservoir! The bird was perched up in a tree opposite the Canoe Club for most of the afternoon. It appeared to be coloured ringed, with a red ring just viewable on one leg.
Nothing else of note except for three Little Egrets, so it was a real case of quality over quantity today!
Sutton Bingham year list for 2015 now at 79 species.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 19 Apr

A mid-morning visit to the patch added House Martin to the year list, with two birds hanging out with a Swallow at the most southerly point of my Patchwork Challenge area. Also from here a Kestrel flew through. Back at the northern causeway a Common Sandpiper was seen, as was a Little Egret. A check of the gulls reaped rewards as I located a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull amongst the Herring Gulls, the second patch year tick of the day!

Greylake RSPB, Meare Heath and Ham Wall RSPB - Sat 18 Apr

Arriving at Greylake RSPB in the early afternoon we made for the hide and lucked in at last and were rewarded with good, if somewhat distant, views of the drake Green-winged Teal, I even managed a typically dodgy phone-scoped picture of it!
A couple of male Garganey were also present at Greylake amongst the few remaining wildfowl and I also heard my first Reed Warbler of the year and my first booming Bittern. A very successful stop so on towards Ham Wall and Meare Heath, where a Red Kite over the village of Ashcott was a welcome surprise.
We walked out to have a quick look at the drained lagoon at Meare Heath, another male Garganey was a nice find and a Great White Egret made a brief stop. A fair-sized flock of Black-tailed Godwits were also present and a male Marsh Harrier passed over the far reed bed. As we returned to the car park a Garden Warbler could be heard singing from the scrub but we could not nail it's exact location! A singing Sedge Warbler was another addition to the year list.
A quick walk over to Ham Wall RSPB and I saw my first Swifts of the year, a total of four were seen over the reserve. A couple more Great White Egrets were seen and as we returned to the car a Bittern flew over the reeds, frustratingly I was the only one to see the bird before it was obscured from sight by a stand of trees.
A brilliant day out with some great friends!
UK list for 2015 now at 150 species.

Exmoor - Sat 18 Apr

An early start and a day out with some mates to explore Exmoor. Arriving at around 7.30am it was 2½°C, and with a fierce wind it felt well below zero! Needless to say there were no birds to be seen on the moors so after a quick trip to Porlock where there was no sign of the Hooded Crow reported a few days earlier we set off to Horner and a walk up the wooded valley in the hope of avoiding the weather until the day warmed up. Horner did produce a couple of male Pied Flycatchers and a pair of Marsh Tits amongst commoner fair, but still very few birds about so on to Pool Farm where a Wood Warbler put on a good show. We then headed back up on to the moor and had a wander around near Nutscale Reservoir, the highlight being a couple of Wheatears. After some discussion we decided to cut our losses and head back to the Somerset Levels for the afternoon.

Sutton Bingham - Fri 17 Apr

A quick visit to the reservoir today didn't add any new species for the year, but surprisingly a flock of thirteen Linnets were in the field between the car park and the Canoe Club. Other birds of note today were limited to four Little Egrets and six Common Sandpipers (the highest daily total of the Spring...so far!).

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Lidlington - Thu 16 Apr

For as long as I have been (semi-)seriously birding I have wanted to see a Lady Amherst's Pheasant, and I have made several attempts to find out where I could actually see one, including contacting those in the know...and every time I have failed in getting the necessary gen! However, this year news has been released as to the location of what is probably the last remaining wild Lady Amherst's Pheasant, so I decided that I would give it a go.
I was up at 3.30am and on the road half an hour later. A drive of a little over three hours, which included a Ring-necked Parakeet flying over the M25, and I arrived at the village of Lidlington in Bedfordshire (seeing my first House Martin of the year when I got out of  the car). Following the directions on the pager I hiked up the hill to the suggested viewing point, and from more or less the minute I was on site I could hear the bird calling, a most distinct trisyllabic call. What followed though was a two and a half hour wait before the male Lady Amherst's Pheasant finally showed itself as it crossed the top of the ride. But it was well worth it, a beautiful looking bird with wonderful colourful plumage.
The following photo shows the area that seems to be the only reliable site for actually seeing the bird, and judging by how quickly it crossed the ride I'm amazed that some birders have managed to get photos.
An entertaining chorus of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps kept me occupied during the wait and the following sign at the base of the footpath was worthy of a smile!
With the mission accomplished I decided against hanging around and headed back home, taking a slightly different route to avoid the M25 and London bound traffic. This worked out well as when I passed Newbury I saw three Red Kites, a nice end to the excursion and I was home in time for lunch!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Sutton Bingham - Mon 13 Apr

A pre-work visit was brief but did yield a couple of Common Sandpipers on the northern causeway, at least five Little Egrets on the far bank opposite the Car Park, and a pair of Linnets, seen near the Canoe Club again.
A stop off on the way home from work proved to be much more rewarding as I stumbled upon three Oystercatchers! A completely unexpected addition to the patch year list, the birds were typically flighty and only occasionally settled on the northern causeway for brief periods. I also located my first Willow Warbler of the year at SBR with a singing male in the car park.
Sutton Bingham year list for 2015 now at 75 species.

Sutton Bingham - Sat 11 Apr

A mid-morning visit was enjoyable but not that rewarding with regard to birds! That being said I did add Linnet to the patch year list with a pair being seen near the Canoe Club. There were still four Little Egrets present and a few Swallows knocking around.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Sutton Bingham - Fri 10 Apr

A little over an hour spent at the reservoir before work today paid dividends with the undoubted highlight being a fly-through female Merlin! Coming from nowhere it whizzed past me low across the meadow south of the Canoe Club before crossing the road and heading purposefully north.
Little Egrets were still evident, with at least eight being present. A pair of Teal were spooked from the water's edge, as was a single Snipe. Still nothing in the way of migrants other than a few "new" Chiffchaffs. Robins seemed to be everywhere though, with ten or more being seen/heard.
A return visit on my way home from work produced the first Common Sandpiper of the year!
Sutton Bingham year list for 2015 now at 72 species.

Sutton Bingham - Thu 9 Apr

I've managed a few flying visits to the reservoir over the last few days, but not seen much in the way of birds and hardly anything with regard to Spring migrants. It was pretty much the same today, but I did get a good patch year tick in the form of a third-winter Great Black-backed Gull which was feeding on a fish carcass on the far back opposite the northern causeway in the afternoon. Great Black-backed Gull is not a species I ever guarantee seeing annually at Sutton Bingham, so a good bird to see.
Over the past couple of days a few Little Egrets have been seen, today that number rose to an impressive ten birds, all on the far bank between the car park and Canoe Club.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Sutton Bingham - Mon 6 Apr

I just about managed to get to the reservoir today, and spent a little under an hour on patch late afternoon. Amazingly a flock of twenty-one Tufted Ducks had appeared and were viewable from the Canoe Club (apparently another four were on West Pool but I missed these), this is the highest count of Tufted Ducks for years...and they were all gone on Tuesday morning!
A Little Egret was also present from the Canoe Club and six Swallows passed through north. A pale Buzzard caused a little excitement later in the evening!

Sutton Bingham - Sun 5 Apr

A quick visit to the reservoir mid-morning failed to yield much in the way of spring migrants other than a single fly-through Swallow and a few "new" Chiffchaffs. The southern end of the reservoir provided a little interest with a pair of Mandarin being present, as were a pair of Teal. A sub-adult Peregrine whizzed through in an attempt to disturb potential prey, failed miserably and alighted on a pylon. Four Treecreepers spent a little time chasing each other through the trees. The only birds of note at the northern end of the reservoir were three drake Tufted Ducks.

Abbotsbury - Fri 3 Apr

A pleasant afternoon spent at Abbotsbury produced some cracking birds. Starting off with a visit to the Swannery I finally (after three or four attempts) connected with the long-staying Greenland Whitefront Goose, and it was showing very well from within the Swannery grounds.
Continuing the walk around the Swannery I scanned the Fleet and soon located the four Long-tailed Ducks, but they were far too distant for me to even attempt a photo. I decided against a walk out to the meadow hide as it was rather muddy and wet but it didn't matter too much as I had already successfully 'scoped the Black-winged Stilt from the Swannery entrance! This is the second Black-winged Stilt I'd seen on the meadow pool, the other being seen in April 2012.
Leaving the Swannery I drove round to the Sub-tropical Gardens and rounded off a lovely afternoon with some rather good views of a singing Firecrest!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Sutton Bingham - Tue 31 Mar

A brief visit on Monday evening produced my first Swallow of the year at Sutton Bingham, and a return visit 24 hours later added Sand Martin to the patch year list, with half a dozen hawking over the trees at the southern end of the reservoir in the company of another Swallow.
Also tonight, a small flock of fourteen Wigeon were still present at the southern end of the reservoir as were ten Teal and a pair of Tufted Duck.
Sutton Bingham year list for 2015 now at 69 species.