Monday, 16 February 2015

Red-necked Grebe at Rutland

A great day out birding started at Sandy Smith with the Great Grey Shrike, then a nip up to Rutland Water for the Red-necked Grebe, We then went round to the Lapwing hide to find the Smew amongst a large quantity of Goldeneye, Tuftys, Pochard, Wigeon and Mallard.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

More catch-up: Lesvos wildlife

Scarce Swallowtail - not very scarce!
We couldn't resist taking some photos of these butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles etc.

Eastern Dappled White

Eastern Festoon

Cream-spotted Tiger

Starred Agama

Dice Snakes
Small Pincertail Dragonfly
Broad Scarlet Dragonfly

Overdue catch-up - our Birds of Lesvos!

Scop's Owl
At the beginning of May, Gen and ourselves went to Lesvos for a week's birding. Being our first trip to Lesvos we were in exploratory mode,with  the considerable help of Steve Dudley's excellent book and many references to his Blog. We loved the island and it's people but most of all we loved the birds. It wouldn't be a blog - it would be a book if I recounted all the places we visited and we only covered half of the island! That gives us a good reason to return. Hopefully before it is ruined by massive wind farms (see Steve Dudley's blog). Here are just a few of our photo's...........

Black-headed Bunting

Cretzschmar's Bunting

Cirl Bunting

Apart from the wonderful buntings we had sightings of most of the birds that Lesvos is so famous for, including Kruper's Nuthatch feeding young at the nest.

Another treat was a very obliging Ruppell's Warbler....
Ruppell's Warbler

and .....
Rufous Bush Robin


Masked Shrike

and last but not least....... a very elegant Spur-winged Lapwing!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

More Beds Birds

Our weekend plans were stymied by our car breaking down on Friday so instead of going to Norfolk to see what was about we decided to stay 'local'.
First stop Blows Down paddocks - after watching and photographing a very vocal Chiffchaff we were lucky enough to meet Rob D on his 'rounds' who kindly pointed us in the direction of the male Ring Ouzel which had been seen there. It was not on view at first but a good scan round the paddocks soon picked up on a female Wheatear by the fence-line. A short time later the Ring Ouzel appeared on the ground near the shelter.

Broom was our next stop, unfortunately with fewer birds than we had hoped. A single Common Tern being the most notable.
After lunch and a 'warm-up' at Danish Camp we set off to see what was about ...... Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Green Woodpeckers calling but surprisingly few birds on the river. A few Canada Geese and Mallard on the fishing lake. Looking over the scrapes we saw a Snipe flying in and then spotted Little Ringed Plover crouching in the vegetation and at least two Ringed Plover scuttling along the edges. As we scanned the ploughed field and grassland either side of the path Gen spotted a male Wheatear. We all stopped to take photos and it was then we noticed a second Wheatear.
Wheatear at Willington

Alas no sign of any Wagtails - neither Pied or Yellow.
Our last stop was at MVCP to pay a visit to the Slavonian Grebe and see if there were any different Warblers about. Blackcaps, Chiffys and Willow Warblers but nothing else calling.
Chiffchaff at MVCP

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Easter Weekend

Having spent some time studying the weather forecast for the holiday weekend we decided to go birding on the Friday and Sunday.
Good Friday was spent at Welney WWT and the Ouse Washes in cool but reasonably dry conditions with a few patches of sunshine. We dipped on the Sacred Ibis but were pleased to see our first Sedge Warbler for this year - unfortunately a rather shy one that didn't pose for photos! We also saw a tagged Marsh Harrier - tagged by the NW Norfolk Ringing Group at Sculthorpe Moor, Norfolk on the 10th June (biometrics indicated that it is a male from a brood of 6).
Wing-tagged male Marsh Harrier AA

We also saw Little Ringed Plover and a large group of 11 Snipe on the scrapes left of the main hide.
After lunch we drove round to the Ouse Washes in search of Garganey that had been reported there. With a short walk to the hides overlooking the 'Washes' we spent some time checking out the numerous Teal that were feeding there. Eventually a pair of Garganey were spotted emerging from the vegetation at the side of one of the pools.
Then after the Teal were spooked, taking to the sky, they settled in a channel directly opposite the hide. The Garganey had taken off with them and when we found them again there were actually 2 males and a female. It took them a little frantic calling and swimming around in circles before they found each other again.

In just one section of the Washes we counted more than a dozen Little Egret. We also found Ruff, displaying Redshank and a pair each of Pintail and Goldeneye. To our surprise there were still several Whooper Swans grazing on the water meadows.
In contrast we started out in rain on Easter Sunday to travel to Dungeness for our first visit there this year. As it was still raining when we got there we decided to visit the hide on the ARC pit first (we usually go there after a walk around the RSPB reserve). It was a good call as we had fairly close views of the Spoonbill, which has been there for a while, before it retreated to the other side of the pit.
Dungeness Spoonbill

Other birds seen included Snipe, Oystercatcher, Goldeneye, Curlew and Little Ringed Plover. As we returned to the car we spotted a beautiful male Hen Harrier hunting over the scrub opposite Boulderwall Farm, before it flew low over the road and onto the reserve.
The reserve itself was fairly quiet - few people and even fewer birds. There were Marsh Harriers quartering the fields, pristine Common Gulls amongst those sheltering/roosting on Burroughs Pit and a few Swallows flying through.
A visit to Dungeness is not complete without a sea watch. Despite the meanness of the winds coming in off the sea there were good views of Little Gulls patrolling the shoreline and a number of adult Gannets flying through as well as a couple of groups of Common Scoter. We had hoped to find any early migrants near the lighthouse but the poor weather kept them skulking out of sight.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Beds Birds

Yesterday morning a quick visit to the Open Morning at DSTW gave us good views of a visiting Green Sandpiper and a Water Rail.

The Water Rail was sensitive to noise from people on the site but made frequent forays into the open.

Hawfinch, Goshawk and Short-eared Owl

This is just a round-up of the last three weekends - days spent in the Suffolk Brecks, Gloucester's Forest of Dean and Lincolnshire's Gibraltar Point, Freiston Shore and Frampton Marsh.
We spent a day in the Brecks with our friends in the Beds Bird Club, starting out at Olley's Farm in the hope of seeing Goshawk. We drew a blank on Goshawk but enjoyed the singing Woodlark.
Lynford Arboretum was our next stop, with Crossbills, Goldcrest and Firecrest (heard) and a very bold Hawfinch clearing up beneath some feeders. Unfortunately the Hawfinch was difficult to photograph but this Marsh Tit was more obliging.

There were high hopes for Lakenheath RSPB which had been good the day before, in persistent rain. We had a short sharp shower whilst there but in cool dry conditions we walked the length of the reserve. Hunting Marsh Harriers, a fleeting view of a distant Bittern and some elusive Beardies were the best on offer. The day was very nicely rounded off by a visit to a nearby site where we saw 7 newly arrived Stone Curlew.
The following weekend we rose extra early (British summertime arrived!) and left Sandy RSPB at 7am to travel to the Forest of Dean. The day started well with a very obliging Tawny Owl perched on a fence at Sandy.
The Lodge Tawny Owl
Our first stop was at South Leigh, Oxon to search for a Great Grey Shrike. After a while it was discovered perched at the top of a tall tree. It began hunting and was quite mobile but at least we all got to see it. We arrived at New Fancy in the Forest of Dean mid-morning and climbed up to the viewpoint. Those who had visited before were all thrilled that the weather was being so kind to us - clear views and light clouds instead of bitterly cold winds. We had fantastic views of displaying Buzzards and Ravens and at least one Goshawk flying and one perched on the edge of the forest.
Canop Ponds were very busy with picnickers taking advantage of the summery weather. There were a few Mandarin ducks on view along with the Mallards.
Mandarin Duck at Canop Ponds

Our final stop was at Symonds Yat for the Peregrines. We were lucky enough to get reasonable views as the pair returned to the cliff shortly after our arrival. A few minutes later a Goshawk came into view as it rode the thermals above the cliff. A fantastic end to the day.
On the last day of March Gen, Paul and ourselves went to Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire in the hope of catching up with some early migrants. We started off well with great views of a Short-eared Owl hunting over the river and then overhead as it crossed over to the saltmarsh. In the first hide we had just got settled when it started to rain. This was not the drizzle forecast but a squally shower which brought the temperature down to a bitter 4C. There were a few Golden Plover - some males going into summer plumage and looking quite smart. Our best bird from the hide was a Merlin, it was hunkered down in the grass it took a while for us to work out what it was.
As for migrants there were none to be seen in the usual scrub and grazing areas. If they were there they kept a very low profile!
There was a distinct shortage of water, especially on the large pool on the way to the dunes. A Little Egret found the fishing easy!
Little Egret fishing in shallow water

Freiston Shore looked a bit more interesting with numbers of Avocet, Brent Geese, a Bar-tailed Godwit and Ringed Plover to add to the usual Redshank, Canada Geese and Lapwings.
Brent Geese

Bar-tailed Godwit

Frampton Marsh promised more than it gave. Someone had put Jack Snipe on the board but we couldn't find it - only Common Snipe. There was plenty of water around. A group of about 60 Black-tailed Godwit were standing, hunched against the cold wind. Kestrels were showing a keen interest in the nest box at the far end of the car park.