Monday, 13 December 2010

Monday, 29 November 2010

Wonderful Woburn Waxwings

We decided to see if we could catch up with the Woburn Waxwings yesterday morning and left home with -4.5 degrees on the thermometer. We arrived in Leighton Street in time to see them flying to and fro across the street and settling from time to time in a bare tree at the back of the garden next to number 10. We had great views of up to 18 individuals and watched them feeding and passing berries to each other. What lovely birds!

Zero degrees + ice + fog!

We must have been mad! Well, maybe just a little. With visibility a very murky 250 metres Gen and ourselves visited Elmley Marshes yesterday in the hope of seeing Short-eared Owl and maybe one or two of the more elusive raptors. Marsh Harrier,Common Buzzard and Kestrel were the only ones seen plus a few waders - Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Redshank, Blackwit and Curlew which we peered at through the mist.
Kestrel at Elmley Marsh

After lunch we decided that a drop-in to Rainham Marshes might be more productive.  Short-eared Owl had been seen very early in the morning and not since but there were several Bearded Tits showing well in the reed beds by the side gate. We were in luck, they were still feeding avidly on the seed heads and showed well in the late afternoon sun. A good way to end a very unpromising day!
Bearded Tits at Rainham

Friday, 19 November 2010

An Owl of a weekend!

On Saturday we (that is Gen and ourselves) travelled to Gloucestershire via the Cotswold Water Park near Cirencester. Reports of a Short-eared Owl had been posted during the week and we thought it might still be around. A short walk from the car took us towards the Shorncote Reed Bed, luckily we met another birder whose first words were "Have you seen it?". He had just been watching it and it had flown in our direction! And there it was - quartering the field to our right. It was a beautifully coloured bird and seemed not to be too bothered by an audience. We watched it for over half an hour as it hunted, perched and then hunted again.
We travelled further on to Frampton-on-Severn in the hope of seeing Water Pipit but lacking local knowledge and details of location gave up and moved on to check what birds were around at Slimbridge before driving down to Ham Wall in Somerset for the Starling roost. WOW!! Along with a hundred or so people we watched and listened to over 50,000 starlings gathering at Ham Wall to roost in the reed beds. Passing Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier only helped to enhance the spectacular show. The sight and sound was unforgettable and made more so because they were reasonably close to where we stood.  
On Sunday we met up with other Beds Bird Club members for a visit to Slimbridge. A very murky start meant a tour round the pens and ponds admiring the very colourful waterbirds. A visit to the Holden Hide when the fog had lifted revealed Canada, Barnacle, White-front, Pink-foot and Greylag geese, a couple of Buzzards, a Peregrine, Curlew, Lapwing and Dunlin plus a few Shoveler, Pintail, Mallard etc. We finished with a visit to the Wild Bird feed which only had a few Bewick's Swans and no Whoopers.

Caribbean Flamingos
White-faced Whistling Duck
Ringed Teal

Monday, 8 November 2010

Suffolk highlights!

On Saturday we made our way to the Suffolk coast in the hope of catching up with the King Eider that has been around for a while. On arriving at Minsmere visitor centre we were told that it has been moving between Dunwich and Sizewell and it was anyone's guess where it might be, another comment was that it had been seen most regularly offshore from Minsmere reserve at about 2.30pm! Undaunted we set off towards the beach for a sea watch. Malcolm had soon got his sights on the King Eider which was drifting steadily north/south towards Sizewell. At first we had quite poor views of a dark bird bobbing up and down between the waves. Luckily it was disturbed by a fishing boat and flew back towards Dunwich and coming closer in to the shore. We were able to see it more clearly, it's colouring and markings being quite distinct. It seemed to be very settled, fishing and preening in front of a growing audience of birdwatchers.

 A quick visit to the East Hide revealed a flock of about 15 Waxwings flitting among the trees behind the North Hide so we hurriedly retraced our steps to try and get a better view. Eventually we found a single waxwing in one of the trees near the visitor centre and managed a couple of photos before it flew off.
A message on Birdguides confirmed the continued prescence of a Richard's Pipit at Covehithe so we went to see if we could find a second 'lifer' for the day (got to keep our averages up!) As luck would have it we were able to follow some fellow enthusiasts and had good views of a very mobile bird.

We finished the day by walking to Island Mere Hide to see if we could find anything else of interest. We were rewarded by cracking views of a ring-tail Hen Harrier which flew in front of the hide with the setting sun behind it. Altogether a great day's birding.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Another Algarvian Adventure

Azure-winged Magpie 
On October 1st we flew to Faro with our friends Gen, John and Pete. Our holiday cottage overlooked the Ria da Formosa saltmarsh and lagoons with a good variety of waders and sea birds.

The garden is a haven for local birds including Azure-winged Magpie, Little Owls, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Great Spotted and Iberian Green Woodpeckers, Waxbill,  Hoopoe, and Red-rumped Swallows to name but a few.

Bar-tailed Godwit 

Griffon Vultures 

We managed to fit in a Pelagic from Sagres for Shearwater and a visit to the Alentejo for Bustards, Vultures etc. as well as visiting the Odiel Marshes in Spain and the Castro Marim salt pans.

Red Signal Crayfish at Vilamoura
Monarch Butterfly at Vilamoura  

Other sites that we visited included Quinta do Lago and Ludo Farm, the Parque Ambiental at Vilamoura and Lagoa do Salgados.

Our final species count was 156 which included a Sacred Ibis found at Salgados on the last day. A tropical downpour was a refreshing end to a great birding holiday!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Pitsford, Eyebrook and Summer Leys

On Saturday the 25th we set out to go and have a look at Pitsford Reservoir to see if we could find any migrants, after paying for a permit we set out for the Nature Reserve and were promptly buzzed by a Spitfire and 3 trainer aircraft flying over our heads, in formation.

Our first wader was a single Dunlin amongst the Wigeon and Lapwing which abounded around the shores of the reservoir. Walking from the first hide to the Bird Club Hide we disturbed a sizeable flock of Tree Sparrows which proceeded to flit from shrub to shrub, stopping to groom themselves or feed on the fruits and seeds available.

There were quite large numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Great Crested Grebe and Black-headed Gulls, with smaller numbers of Gadwall, Shoveler, Little Grebe and Cormorants and a couple of Black-tailed Godwit.
We went to Eyebrook next but apart from wonderful views of Lapwing flying overhead, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and ducks galore there was no sign of anything special.
From there we went to the South Shore of Rutland Water to have lunch before making our way south again to Summer Leys.

There the highlights were a smart Greenshank on the scrape and Common Buzzards and Red Kites returning to their roosts.

Last weekend in Norfolk...

We joined the Bedford RSPB Group on a trip to the North Norfolk coast - starting at Cley. When we arrived it was overcast and raining lightly - so we decided hot chocolate & cake would buoy our spirits and see us through until we enjoyed a late lunch! A Marsh Harrier hunting over the marshes close to the visitor centre was our first raptor of the day, quickly followed by a Hobby flying over whilst refreshments were consumed. Along the East Bank we were treated to good views of Black-tailed Goodwit feeding on the marsh with Greylag and a large group of Egyptian Geese plus a single Ruff in the margins.

A seawatch produced Arctic Skua, Gannets, Merganser, Common and Sandwich Terns, Cormorants and an elusive seal.

There had been reports of a flock of Lapland Bunting in the area but we felt lucky to have found just one, which was skulking in the vegetation at the top of the dunes. When it was in full view it was a beautiful little bird but it did not stay still for long.

The North Hide produced the usual suspects - Teal, Cormorants, Gadwall along with a Little Stint close by. Another spell of seawatching before we walked back down the road to the visitor centre produced a trio of Common Scoter fairly close to the shore.

We then went west along the coast to Thornham Harbour where we found Spoonbill, Oystercatchers, various Gulls and waders feeding on the exposed mud of the estuary.

These were all seen as we walked to Holme NOA where a Barred Warbler had been seen earlier in the afternoon.

Unfortunately for us it was a 'no show' but Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Dunnock did their best to entertain us while we waited. The return walk produced Kingfisher and Pied Wagtail.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Fantastic Freiston!

On Saturday morning four of us set off for Lincolnshire not realising what lie ahead. We reached Frampton Marsh at lunchtime and found an interesting list of recent sightings on the Visitor Centre board but not a huge amount of life on the freshwater marshes. The best sighting was of a hunting Peregrine which swooped in low over the marsh, flying almost directly towards us as we watched from the 360 Hide. We travelled on to Freiston Shore to stay at the local B&B.
On Sunday morning, we watched in delight as large flocks of waders flew in to wait out the high tide on the freshwater pool. Possibly 1500 Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatchers by the hundred and numerous Dunlin, Redshank, Knot and a few Greenshank and Turnstone arrived at the pool and filled the air with their 'chattering' calls.
Large group of Black-tailed Godwit with Dunlin, Redshank and Knot

That was all before breakfast! We met up after breakfast with other members of Beds Bird Club to explore the Reserve. With all eyes on the birds we scanned the assembly on the pool finding Ringed Plover, Wigeon, Canada & Greylag Geese in addition to the birds already mentioned. A view across the water meadows revealed several Curlew, Yellow Wagtail, a flock of Starling and Barn Swallows hunting. A walk along to the bank gave us a view over the Wash. There were some juvenile Gannets flying close to the shore but not much else. As we sat there the waders on the pool started to lift off and fly over our heads which was an amazing sight but the water was still too high for them, especially the smaller birds, to settle on the shore.
The Group Leader went off to check on a small pool and scrape at the western end of the reserve, to see if there were any interesting birds there. As a result we all had good views of Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stint. In addition to these we had Tree Sparrow, Spotted Flycatcher, Chiffchaff and Greenfinch along the path back to the carpark.
Little Stint

We then moved on to Frampton Marsh and after lunch walked to the hides overlooking the freshwater marshes and pools. From the 360 hide we saw Shelduck, Shoveler, and Pintail in addition to the Wigeon. Also a smart Wheatear and Grey Heron. On the path we found a Small Copper sunning itself and from the Reed Hide we saw a lone Green Sandpiper, some very smart Gadwall and Egyptian Geese to add to our list.
Finally on a walk round to the last hide we came across a Whinchat keeping company with a Wheatear and a Goldfinch and spotted a Kingfisher patrolling the channel below the bank.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Marble at Broom

We just had to go and have a look at the Marbled Duck at Broom today. Despite the on/off appearance it was showing well at the far end of the pool by the entrance when we arrived. It swam about quite frenetically for most of the time but slowed down long enough to get some reasonable shots of it.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Holme, sweet Holme!

On Saturday we, including Gen, travelled to Holme Dunes to see what was about. As NWT members we didn't get into the Reserve until 10am but walked over to the dunes to see what the shore had to offer. There were an abundance of waders on the shore - Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Sum. plum. Grey Plover, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Sanderling, Redshank, Common Tern and a few Little Egret. A group of House Martins were flying back and forth along the dunes. We were joined by Ray Roche who had seen Gen and came over to have a chat. Out at sea there were Common Scoter, Arctic Skua and Gannets.

Once the Reserve was opened we parked and walked back to join a group of birders who were watching a juvenile Red-backed Shrike and a Barred Warbler.

The Shrike was an easy spot but the Barred Warbler was more elusive. Inthe meantime two, more obliging, Wheatear posed on the top of one of the shrubs in the centre of the dunes. Patience won out and we eventually got a reasonable view of the Barred Warbler but not long enough to get any record shots.

We made our way to Redwell Marsh where a Red-necked Phalarope had taken up residence on Friday - a dainty little bird who was very easily spotted but not too easily photographed!

For once we had spent the whole day at Holme but with three really good birds and great seawatching. 

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Green Sandpiper and Polish Swan

A trip to Wilstone Reservoir produced this good shot on Sunday. We also had good views of Kingfishers, Spotfly, Greenshank, Grey Wagtail, Red Kite and Peregrine. We moved on to College Lake and after tea and cake in the new visitor centre, the highlight was another Kingfisher.  

After leaving College Lake we made our way to Newport Pagnall where Gen led the way to Gayhurst lakes and views of the Polish Swans, a young Great Crested Grebe family and a couple of Common Sandpipers.  

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Red-backed Shrike

Went to see the Red-backed Shrike at Biggleswade meeting up with Robert N on the way. The bird showed well and we were able to get a few good shots. Managed to avoid the ensuing downpour!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Boston Boat Trip

On Saturday Gen, John, Pete and ourselves met up at Frampton Marsh before going into Boston for the afternoon Wash Boat Trip organised by South Lincs RSPB. Frampton was quiet , the best birds being a juvenile Hobby making a catch (seen at distance), Ruff, Sand Martins feeding young and Tree Sparrows on the feeders. There had been recent sightings of Montagu's Harrier and Osprey and were assured that there was every possibility of seeing them from the boat.

After lunch we went into Boston and joined another 45 passengers on the boat. The journey down the Witham and the Haven produced Swifts, Yellow and Pied Wagtails, Common Sandpipers, Common and Black-headed Gulls, Common Terns and views of a hunting MONTAGU'S HARRIER which was over the north-easterly corner of Frampton Marsh. At the mouth of the Haven there were Sandwich Terns, Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers on the shingle bar and a large number of Little Egret on the northerly shore of the Wash. We travelled along the shore towards Frieston Shore and were lucky enough to find the Osprey perched on the rigging of a sunken boat. After getting as close as we dare, without putting the bird up, the boat turned about to travel along the mouth of the Welland viewing the large groups of waders on the Wash mudflats on our left which included, Curlew, Whimbrel, Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover in summer plumage and Little Terns fishing in the river around the boat. We also had fantastic views of a Peregrine chasing a wader - a heart-stopping chase that ended with the wader escaping! When the boat turned around again the north banks of the Welland had Common Seals, Greater Black-backed Gulls, Little Egrets and hundreds of Oystercatchers.

The boat travelled along the Wash once more, the Osprey was still on it's perch! The return journey along the Haven and Witham revealed nothing new with the exception of a Turtle Dove sat on the mud bank and a Peregrine perched on the Boston Stump. Altogether a very enjoyable trip. 

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Hooded Crow Norfolk

We went on trip to Cley in  Norfolk yesterday, we being Gen,John,Carolyn and myself. After an enjoyable few hours looking at all the waders for a Curlew Sandpiper (which we didn't find) a message came through of a Hooded crow not far away so we went for a look. After viewing it and getting this record shot it flew up and away .We left the area and went along the coast to Holme. On arrival we saw a Barn Owl which we viewed for a good 20 mins or so again I got a record shot.
After seeing the owl we walked along the boardwalk to take a look at the sea. There we found numerous Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwits, Sanderling, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Turnstones and Ringed Plover on the foreshore. Looking out to sea we saw a large group of gulls and terns which were being harassed by a couple of Arctic Skua and a Great Skua. Fantastic aerial displays were seen.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Black Redstarts at Sizewell

Two record shots of the Black Redstarts at Sizewell Power Station, the reward for our post-lunch stroll!!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

White-tailed Lapwing Video

Gen managed to take this short video, in order to get as much photographic evidence as possible to enable identification. It was taken with a handheld compact camera through her scope, in hot and windy conditions. Nevertheless it shows the bird clearly enough. 

Monday, 12 July 2010

White-tailed Lapwing

We, that is Gen, Carolyn and I, went to Dungeness in search of Purple Heron. After a lengthy wait at the viewpoint one was seen flying over the reed beds at a distance. Unfortunately we were too busy watching to get any photos. Great view of the visiting Great White Egret close to where the Purple Herons had established their nest site.

A visit to the ARC pit produced an unexpected 'Mega', great excitement as we came to the conclusion that we were looking at a White-tailed Lapwing!! A couple of birdwatchers joined us and agreed our conclusions. Between rushing back to the Visitor centre to find a warden and getting back to the pit the WT Lapwing had been harassed by E.Lapwings and spooked by a young Marsh Harrier, flying up high towards the Reserve. As we left the site the local birding enthusiasts (Twitchers) started to pile into the car park! We showed them our record shots and they went off to try and relocate the bird. Luckily for them it was still around and was watched for the rest of the evening.

What a fantastic days birding!!

Friday, 9 July 2010