Monday, 23 January 2012

Pagham Harbour and Selsey Bill

Yesterday saw Gen, Paul and ourselves up before the crack of dawn to travel down to West Sussex for a birding adventure with Beds Birds. John, our leader for the day, had prepared for the trip meticulously including going down a day ahead and scouting out the best viewpoints.

We assembled at the visitor centre before setting off for a walk around the western side of the harbour. From the hide we had good views of Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and a large number of Shelduck feeding on the water to the west of the road. Lapwing, Golden Plover and Curlew were also present. A couple of Red-legged Partridge were spotted at the back of the field. The walk along the 'embankment' revealed Redshank and Pintail feeding and dabbling in the saltmarsh. Further along the path we saw more Pintail, then a group of Avocet, Grey Plover, Dunlin and a couple of Oystercatchers resting on the end of one of the mud banks. In the distance, across the water, we saw Brent Geese along with more Shelduck. On our walk back to the cars Mike spotted a Goldcrest moving through a bramble hedge but it quickly moved on and only a couple of us saw it. The feeders outside the visitors centre were busy - we saw plenty of Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit feeding there as well as a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Then we all drove down to Selsey Bill for a sea watch and for most of the group a very fleeting view of a Black Redstart. There were several Med Gulls on and around the beach area as well as a small number of Mergansers a bit further out to sea. We also had an eclipse Eider moving rapidly westwards in quite a rough sea. Further round, near the Lifeboat Station we stopped for lunch and a more prolonged seawatch where the water was not quite so choppy. A large group of Turnstones were gathered on the slipway and at least one Great Crested Grebe diving around the moored fishing boats.

Lastly a visit to the Church Norton end of the reserve gave us views of the waders enjoying the increasing mud flats revealed by the retreating tide. New for the day were Ringed Plover, Little Egret and Knot. A short walk took us to the beach where another sea watch became more interesting as the receding tide left a sandier shoreline for the waders to forage along. The highlight here was the Slavonian Grebe that had been spotted the previous day but took quite a while to relocate. Unfortunately it wasn't a great day for photographs - just a great days' birding with friends!

Ducks and Swans

Ducks....... on the 14th January I joined Gen on a 'Duck Hunt' along the River Flit, through Flitwick Moor and Flitton Moor then on to Hollington Basin. It was a beautifully bright and frosty morning and although I started out in fog it was clear and sunny in Flitwick.
Our first significant bird of the morning was a lovely Goldcrest which alerted us to it's presence by it's call whilst it flitted through a garden conifer. Of ducks - not a lot to see. Our sightings were all on the millstream and river and amounted to Moorhen, Mallards and this odd hybrid!
Hybrid duck

We really enjoyed the walk despite the lack of ducks. There were 3 Grey Heron, standing in meadows, looking a bit fed up and two very vocal Little Egret flew over. This picture of the Soay sheep used for managing the Moor reminds me of the wintry views sometimes found on Christmas cards and jigsaws.

Best of all, was a pair of Bullfinches that were feeding on seed heads near the path. I managed to get a couple of photos but before I could get close enough for a decent shot a dog-walker disturbed the birds and they flew off.
Male Bullfinch
Unfortunately all the shallow water, including Hollington Basin was frozen and any water birds had gone elsewhere to feed.
Swans....... on Sunday 15th we went to the Ouse Washes and Welney with the Bedford RSPB Local Group. We visited the Ouse Washes first and were pleased to see that despite there being plenty of ice there were still plenty of birds. I was very glad not to be there to count them as there were Wigeon everywhere as well as plenty of Teal, some beautiful Pintails, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Dunlin and a Temmincks Stint that some saw and others didn't. I think we saw it but as it was at distance we weren't sure. We had good views of a female Merlin hunting.
After lunch we visited Welney WWT. This was a chance for possibly the last visit this winter while the Bewick's and Whoopers are here. We certainly saw more Bewick's than we had last time we visited and they were better views. Malcolm took some video of this pair head-bobbing.

It was very busy in the main observation hide so we walked down to Lyle Hide, just in time to get good views of a perched Peregrine before it flew off. We were also lucky to see a small group of European White-fronts feeding with some Greylags. Although the hide was busy, people were sharing the space well and everybody managed to get a good view of a ringtail Hen Harrier that flew over. As the afternoon progressed the temperature dropped and light faded so we returned to the visitor centre to enjoy a hot chocolate and fantastic views of a hunting Barn Owl as it flew past the windows.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Happy Smew Year!

A great start to the new year list began with the cracking male Smew at Caldecotte Lake. We hoped it would still be there despite a negative report the day before - and we were lucky to find it busily feeding amongst Black-headed Gulls and a trio of Goosander. Unfortunately the light was not brillant and this photo is, at best, a record shot.
Smew at Caldecotte

After watching the Smew for a while we hastened to the north lake to look for the Great Northern Diver. Here again we were lucky and found the diver feeding just off the northern bank.

We then went to Linford Lakes to see if we could bag the Great White Egret. Unfortunately it had gone AWOL to Brogborough and by the time we got there it had returned to Bucks!! Nevertheless we did get good views of Goldeneye on the lake and Marsh Tit and Water Rail from the Woodland Hide. Whilst scanning the lake to see what was about we were visited, in the hide, by a very trusting young Robin.
Our friendly Robin
Marsh Tit

We returned to Bedfordshire and dipped on the GWE. After lunch we went for a walk round Stewartby Lake but with the weather rapidly deteriorating we were lucky to locate the GND which was fishing in the lea the Marston Corner. After a brief visit to the Gull Watchpoint we retreated from the increasingly wet weather.