Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Drift Reservoir - Tue 31 May

I had a day booked off work so with positive news of the Dalmation Pelican at Drift Reservoir on Monday night I bit the bullet and got up at 3am for the drive down to Cornwall. Having dipped this first for Britain on our way home from the Isles of Scilly I thought I really ought to give it another go. An uneventful drive down to the other side of Penzance and I arrived at Drift Reservoir at 5.50am and quickly scanned the water...no sign of any massive white birds and nerves set in. Don't panic, it was in the north-east arm last night and that's not that viewable from the car park, so I walked out along the shore. Eventually more and more of the north-east arm became viewable, but still no sign. Panic set in! Now I'm not sure how this happened but suddenly, in the middle of the reservoir I saw it, the biggest bird present by a county mile and it just appeared as if from nowhere! And relax.
Now you can get an idea of how big it was as despite the distance between me and the bird my photos actually look just about passable...and the Herring Gull in the bottom picture also gives some idea of scale.
Now I suppose there is a chance that this Dalmation Pelican will be kicked out by the BOU Rarities board, but there is no reason not to believe it is a genuine vagrant and appears to be the same bird that has travelled across much of Europe over the past few months. Whatever the decision I'm thrilled to have seen it.
I didn't hang around after connecting with my quarry and headed back home arriving at 9.30am in need of coffee and breakfast.

Fingringhoe - Sat 28 May to Mon 30 May

A family trip to visit friends in Essex over the Bank Holiday weekend, and a chance for a little casual birding. We were staying in Fingringhoe and enjoyed three lovely days in the countryside. The drive up on Saturday morning was uneventful and despite a little traffic on the M25 the only thing of note were three fly-by Ring-necked Parakeets.
An enjoyable walk on Saturday afternoon produced some of the expected countryside species plus some good views of three Cuckoos interacting and a fly-over adult Mediterranean Gull. A couple of Sand Martins were whizzing around one of the local gravel pits.
Sunday morning and a post-breakfast stroll to the river where a couple of Common Terns were seen and four Greylag Geese flew over. A single Little Egret was also noted.
After a lunch at The Whalebone pub we spent some of the afternoon at Fingringhoe Wick EWT Reserve where we were lucky enough to get a chance to check out the new area of the reserve that is not yet open to the public. Although we didn't see much the area has got potential! Over seventy Shelduck were noted as well as a couple of pairs of Common Terns. Two Oystercatchers and a couple of Curlew were also seen. I failed to see or hear any Turtle Doves or Nightingales which was a bit disappointing, but a Garden Warbler was in full song.
We headed back home on Monday and were making good progress until we reached Amesbury and a car park had replaced the A303. After being stuck in slow-moving traffic for about half an hour I took to the back roads and an enjoyable journey through the countryside produced four Red Kites and five Corn Buntings...so it was well worth it and was a nice end to a good weekend away.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Isles of Scilly - Sat 14 May to Sun 22 May

A repeat of last year's family holiday and a week on the Isles of Scilly with the added bonus of a day in Cornwall tagged on to the end.
Sailing from Penzance on the Saturday morning meant an early start as we left home at 4.45am. An uneventful drive was followed by a calm crossing and very few birds other than a few Manx Shearwaters, my first Kittiwake of the year and a few Fulmars and Guillemots. We arrived at Hugh Town and settled in to our accommodation before a quick walk around The Garrison where a family of Stonechats put on a show.
Sunday was a quiet day with a stroll to Old Town taking in Lower Moors where a few Gadwall and singing Reed Warblers were all I could manage. Later in the day another jaunt around The Garrison failed to deliver birds but did produce a few Red Admiral, Small Copper and Holly Blue butterflies.
Monday evening was my treat to myself as I embarked on a pelagic with Sapphire Pelagics with the skipper Joe Pender and a couple of the local Scilly birders, including Bob Flood who is world renowned for his seabird expertise. The trip was a great experience with the highlight being some superb views of Storm Petrels with at least sixteen birds noted. Other bits and pieces included a single Great Skua, a couple of Common Terns, three Puffins and a handful of Manx Shearwaters plus two Turnstone and a Purple Sandpiper on one of the small islands. It was gone 10pm by the time I got in!
Another quiet day on Tuesday, though I did see a Whimbrel at Higher Moors, but missed a Red-rumped Swallow (something I managed to do three times during the week!).
On Wednesday we took a boat over to Tresco and spent the bulk of the day wandering around the island. We were lucky enough to get some cracking views of the Iberian Chiffchaff as it sang from trees above our heads. A recording of the bird singing can be heard here:
The Great Pool held a Grey Heron, a couple of Mute Swans and Pochard plus several Coot. We bumped in to lee Evans on the journey back to St Mary's, he had come across to twitch the Bryer Snowy Owl and had been in constant contact with me for a couple of days trying to get news. Anyway, he was successful in his twitch! When we got back to Hugh Town I quickly popped over to Higher Moors and managed to get some great views of a Spotted Sandpiper that had been found the previous evening.
Bryer on Thursday and we arrived on the island just as it started to rain. A look over the north of the island failed to produce the Snowy Owl that had been present just a day before! A couple of Wheatears were scant consolation though it was a lovely island. Two Great Northern Divers were seen from the boat on our journey to and from Bryer.
Friday was another quiet day, though I did find the long-staying Iceland Gull on the Hugh Town dump which was a nice little bonus.
Back to the mainland on Saturday after a relaxing morning around the beaches of Hugh Town. I didn't see anything new from the Scillonian III on the way back. We checked in to The Old Quay House at Hayle for the night. A  few Curlew and three Ringed Plover were noted on the estuary and a Spoonbill flew over!
Sunday morning dawned bright and clear and the Spoonbill was again on the estuary but there was no sign of the Dalmation Pelican which had been in the area for the past two weeks. A quick trip to Drift Reservoir drew a blank so it was back home via a quick stop for a picnic lunch at Polzeath. A nice break even if I did miss a few good birds...but after all if wasn't a birding holiday! I saw 73 species whilst I was away, not that I was counting!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Sutton Bingham - Thu 5 May

Thirty minutes on site before work this morning and it was worth the visit. I only had time to check the reservoir from the dam, but as it happens this was a good call. Significantly fewer than the numbers seen last month there were just four Common Sandpipers present this morning and a single drake Mandarin added a splash of colour. The pick of the birds was a fly-through Hobby that whizzed through heading east at 6:43am, another good patch year tick!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Radipole RSPB - Sun 1 May

Leaving Portland and Ferrybridge behind us we drove in to Weymouth and spent a couple of hours at Radipole wandering around the reserve.
We walked out to the hide first, seeing at least four Bearded Tits en route as well as several singing Cetti's Warblers and Reed Warblers plus a coupe of Sedge Warblers. Overhead a good number of Swifts were noted. When we reached the hide I scanned across the reedbeds and found a Cuckoo sat on a fence post. It got a little harried by a Magpie and soon flew, but settled on another fence post for quite some time.
Leaving the hide we put up a pair of Bearded Tits that must have been feeding right next to the path, and a singing Lesser Whitethroat showed well for a while.
A walk around the buddleia loop produced a Common Sandpiper and as we returned to the visitor centre the now resident Hooded Merganser was flying around with a female Tufted Duck, not sure how far he got though! All in all a brilliant morning out and home in time for lunch.

Ferrybridge and Portland - Sun 1 May

Somewhere a bit different today as I spent the morning out with a birding mate down in south Dorset. We arrived at Ferrybridge at 7.00am and scanned the small number of waders that were present. A single Whimbrel was the pick but a couple of Sanderling were amongst the more numerous Ringed Plover and Dunlin. A few Little Terns and two Sandwich Terns were feeding in the bay.
Leaving Ferrybridge we drove up to Portland and took a walk around Barleycrates Lane, West Cliffs and Reap Lane. It was really quiet and devoid of migrants bar a single Wheatear. Offshore we saw a few passing Gannets and a couple of Fulmers but that was it. So off to the Bill.
It was gone 8.00am by the time we got to the Bill for a spot of sea-watching. Over the next 45 minutes or so we saw a few Manx Shearwaters pass by, including a very close individual, plus a total of six Common Scoters, all of which were male, and a fair few auks. At 9.00am we decided to head back inland (failing to see the Little Owls in the Obs Quarry!), when news broke of a Kentish Plover...at Ferrybridge! How did we miss that earlier?
It didn't take us long to reach Ferrybridge and it seemed that every birder that was on Portland had also made the trip. Despite the bird not showing when we first arrived it was soon relocated and we managed to get some cracking views of this male Kentish Plover to round of a good start to the day. I also discovered that it had flown in when first seen, so we had not overlooked it after all, so that saved some embarrassment.