Monday, 28 February 2011

Sunshine and Showers

Yesterday we joined our Beds Birds friends on a visit to Draycote Reservoir and Brandon Marsh Nature Centre. Sadly the sunshine didn't last much beyond 10am. We set out along the eastern side with views of Goosander, a smart male Smew and displaying Great Crested Grebes.
Female Goosander

We had a good variety of the usual ducks and views of Buzzard and Sparrowhawk passing over. There was a flock of 30+ Fieldfare sunning themselves in a tree.
By the time we reached the north-western side the rain had started, gently at first but steadily for the next hour. A small flock of Siskins and handful of Long-tailed Tits were seen in the trees alongside the path. Midway along the dam we saw a male Goosander with a harem of 12 females. As we got close to the sailing club we spotted a pair of Bullfinches, a single Redwing and a Goldcrest.
After lunch we went to Brandon Marsh in the hope of seeing a reported Long-eared Owl. Views over the East Marsh Pool gave us a group of @ 6 Snipe but when they took off there were nearer 20 in the air and at least 3 left behind. Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Shoveler and Shelduck were amongst the occupants of the Pool. Despite braving the flooded paths and trying to second guess where the LEO might be roosting we .... dipped!!
So we all retreated to the lovely tea room at the centre for a warm drink before the journey home.
Following our President's advice, Gen and ourselves stopped off at the Gull Watchpoint on Stewartby Lake to catch up with the Glaucous Gull and, thanks to Steve B, the two Peregrine on the Stewartby chimneys.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Northern Delights

Last weekend six of us ventured to Dumfries and Galloway to see what birds we could find.
On the way to Kirkcolm our first stop was Annan bridge, the best bird there was a Goosander huddled into the lea of the bank. Next stop - WWT Caerlaverock. There were lots of cars in the car park and we wondered if we'd stumbled on a major twitch but it turned out to be Swan census day and they had rounded up the Whoopers to be checked, weighed, ringed etc. before they took off for their breeding grounds over the next few weeks. Very fleeting and distant views of Harriers but the main highlight was the thousands of Barnacle Geese feeding on the marshes, almost as far as the eye could see.
After lunch we made our way to Loch Ken where there were fewer birds than expected but delightful views. We had our first views of the Red Kites that have been reintroduced into the area. As we left the Loch to make our way further west we came across the Red Kite roosting area and watched 40+ Kites coming from all directions towards a wooded hillside.
Lighthouse at Corsewell Point

Sunrise st Corsewell Point

Saturday morning, before sunrise, we were sea-watching at Corsewell Point. Cold and bright but very interesting. We watched Red-throated Divers, Eider, Shag and Common Scoter flying round to the entrance to Loch Ryan and were entertained by a couple of Rock Pipits chasing in and around the rocks and gullies. There were also hares running around in the fields close by and a Grey Seal offshore.
After breakfast we went off to explore Loch Ryan, starting with the western side where we found a large flock of Twite with some Linnets mixed in. On the shore there were Ringed Plover, Redshank, Turnstone, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Curlew feeding.
Further out we were able to see rafts of Eider, Common Scoter, Scaup and quite a few  Slavonian Grebe. There were also Black Guillemot, Guillemot and Red-breasted Merganser. It was interesting to see the Mergansers displaying. Plenty to look at and in numbers. We also spotted Harbour Porpoise making their way down the loch towards Stranraer. At the end of the day we were lucky enough to get good views of the Starling roost at Stranraer.
On Sunday, after a very wet night, we made our way to Black Head and the Killantringan Lighthouse. As we went down the single track road a Short-eared Owl flew across the road and perched on a fence within sight.

After a brief seawatch at Black Head we moved on to Portpatrick in search of Purple Sandpiper. We were unable to locate them but found more Rock Pipits and pairs of Fulmars on the cliffs.
Portpatrick Harbour
 From Portpatrick we drove to Wigtown where we had views over Wigtown Sands and across the River Cree mud creeks and saw a very distant Peregrine Falcon. On our way back to Kirkcolm we stopped off to see the Long-tailed Ducks on Loch Ryan. They were distant and it wasn't possible to get any clear photos but it was a thrill to see the males complete with long tails.
On Monday we stopped off at Carlingwork Loch for Smew on our way to Mersehead RSPB reserve. We had a quick walk to the nearest hide where we watched a ring-tail Hen Harrier hunting across the meadows as well as large numbers of Pintail amongst the usual ducks.
All in all a great weekend with lots of good birds.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Windy Welney

On the 5th February, after deciding that Lynford Arboretum may not be the safest birding spot in high winds, we went to WWT Welney to visit with the female Long-tailed Duck. We searched in front of the main hide and had decided to visit the other hides before lunch when we met two of the staff who kindly volunteered the information that said duck liked to hang out with the Pochard on the river side of the site but was easily seen at feeding times, in front of the main hide. So we returned to the hide and whilst looking at the Greater Flamingo that had migrated from Marwell Zoo via Dunstable the Long-tailed Duck suddenly appeared in front of the hide.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

January Highlights....

It was a busy start to the year with some interesting birds to add to our list. On the 1st of January we headed to the North Norfolk coast to visit Titchwell and Cley. At Titchwell we had great views of Bearded Tit and Water Pipit from the new Parrinder Hide.
At Cley we caught up with the Ross's Goose which was associating with a group of Barnacle Geese on Arnold's Marsh.


The following week on the 9th January we travelled to Strumpshaw, Cantley and Hickling to see what was around. We started off at Whitlingham Country Park where Red-breasted Goose had been reported but were unable to locate it. At Strumpshaw we had Water Pipit, Stonechat and Marsh Tit. We were put onto the Lesser White-fronted Goose at Cantley by one of the enthusiastic birders already at the site, which meant that we didn't have to stand and freeze for too long. Unfortunately the bird was too distant for photographs.
We timed our arrival at Hickling so that we could get to Stubbs Mill for the Harrier Roost. Good numbers of Marsh Harrier, male and ringtail Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Merlin, Barn Owl, Common Crane and Pink-foot Geese showed well in the late afternoon sun. This Kingfisher was oblivious to it's audience as it scanned the stream for it's supper.
Kingfisher at Stubbs Mill
 Leaving the watchpoint just before dark we arrived back at the car park in time to see Woodcock flying over in every direction - a fantastic end to the day.
The following week we were in North Norfolk hoping to catch up with the Northern Harrier and Rough-legged Buzzard - unfortunately we dipped! We did manage to get good views of the American Wigeon at Cley although visibility was not brilliant.
On the 30th January we visited Abberton Reservoir and Tollesbury Marshes with the Beds Birds group. We found 3 drake and 6 red-head Smew altogether. The males displaying at times. Also distant views of a ringtail hunting.

From the bank at Tollesbury Marshes we watched a Great Northern Diver and a Slavonian Grebe on the River Blackwater.