Thursday, 15 March 2012

Best Bitterns

Last Saturday we ventured to Minsmere in the hope of seeing some of the birds reported there during the week. UK Glossy Ibis would be nice! We took our usual route along the north bank encountering a couple of small groups of  Bearded Tits feeding at the tops of the reeds and flying around. We had some pretty close views.
Bearded Tits

With the sound of Cetti's Warblers singing from the cover of the bushes, we made our way to the beach. At first the sea looked a bit quiet, until we got our eyes in and spotted divers! Unbelievably there were a mix of Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers (mostly Red-throated) on the sea in groups and singles, strung out offshore from Sizewell to Southwold. We estimated the numbers that we saw clearly to be in excess of 50 and probably the whole area contained over 100. They were making their way north, which was evident in the general movement with birds flying and then settling on the sea.  The only other birds we could find were a small group of Common Scoter.
There was a distinct lack of waders on the scrapes, which was rather disappointing. The most interesting bird being an 'exotic' (possibly from a nearby shoot) - a White-faced Pintail.
After lunch we made our way to Bittern Hide where there were very recent recorded sightings of Otters and as a consequence was rammed with people wanting to see them. According to one guy who had photographs taken earlier in the morning (he was there all day!) they were most likely to appear early morning or late afternoon. No Otters for us! Bittern and Water Rail were the order of the day.
Water Rail

After waiting a while with no Otters or Bittern on view, we went to see the new Island Mere viewing room - can't call it a hide as it's like a mini version of the monstrosity at Titchwell. The only bird of note was a red head Smew, there was supposed to be a male as well but he chose not to put in an appearance. Similarly the Glossy Ibis kept a low profile and didn't appear for us!
Red Deer

So it was back to Bittern hide just in time to see a Red Deer walking along the bank and then over the bank and down to the water where it caused some comments on it's culinary use as it obscured views of a Bittern emerging from the reeds. For those of us standing it wasn't a problem we just moved behind those seated and were able to get some reasonable photos.

A short while later when the crowd had thinned out a bit there were good views of a Water Rail and more sustained views of Bittern.
Altogether a day of multiple sightings!

February updates!

Where does the time go? February saw us visiting Pitsford Reservoir in snow and ice, Otmoor Reserve in cool but brilliant sunshine, Wicken Fen in the rain and a second visit to Pagham Harbour with Bedford RSPB Local Group and last but not least Titchwell and Holkham.
The highlights at Pitsford were a group of Goldcrests flitting in and out of the trees, Goldeneye and Smew in pairs and a very lucky fly-over of a Woodcock. There was a very large flock of Canada Geese which dominated the areas around the open water.
Smew at Pitsford
A pair of Goldeneye
After leaving Pitsford we went to Fineshade which was also very icy (except for the lovely hot chocolate, enjoyed in the cafe). There wasn't much about, Marsh and Coal Tit on the feeders were the best we could do! So we made our way back home via Corby, counting Red Kites as we went.
Malcolm and I went on a mid-week trip to Otmoor, hoping to see Short-eared Owls but the best we could do was a Peregrine, a large mixed flock of Fieldfare and Redwings and Mealy Redpolls and Yellowhammers near the feeders.
A morning visit, in drizzle, to Stockgrove gave us some good views of Nuthatch and some cheeky Grey Squirrels.
Nuthatch at Stockgrove

We went to Wicken Fen on a most unpromising day, weather-wise, but the forecast had said it would brighten later! So we didn't go out very early and we managed to stay reasonably dry. The effort was not wasted. Mid-afternoon saw us approaching the 'tower' hide which was already occupied by a couple of birders, we just filled it to capacity! We were delighted to see up to four female/juvenile Hen Harriers hunting and perching on posts or on the ground. The clouds drifted away to leave a beautiful setting sun which cast a golden glow across the reserve. The birds looked magnificent in the sunlight. A Short-eared Owl was seen, briefly, hunting over the fen and at least two Barn Owls joined in the hunting spree. Unfortunately it was not a good day for photography.
Our second visit, for the year, to Pagham Harbour was very enjoyable. We saw the usual waders and geese but the highlight for us was the overwintering? Black Redstart at Selsey which eventually showed very well. There were quite a few Med Gulls, especially on the beach near Church Norton, where the receding tide invited more and more waders down to feed.
Black Redstart

On the last weekend of February we decided to try our luck in North Norfolk for the Rough-legged Buzzard that had been eluding us last year. We made an early start so that we could visit Titchwell first - this proved to be a wise decision. Along the path to the visitor centre we stopped to see if the Redpolls were about, we could hear them but not see them until we spotted a couple flying over the tree tops and away. A Treecreeper calling was easy to spot, then another turned up so we watched them long enough to get a couple of photos.
Treecreeper at Titchwell

We caught up with the Redpolls in the alders along the path, they were a mixed group but we were unable to identify the Coue's in amongst them. Then we made our way down to the sea where we had one of our best Titchwell seawatches. Long-tailed Ducks, Red-throated Divers, Velvet Scoter and Eider to name but a few!
At Holkham we parked up and made our way to the beach in the hope of catching up with the Shorelark but there were too many people about on such a lovely sunny day! A Barn Owl sat on a post in full view, looking for it's lunch. After walking along to the hides and drawing a blank on the RL Buzzard we decided to call it a day. Sitting in the car ready to drive off Malcolm spotted a Buzzard flying along the woodland edge between Holkham and Wells and it was 'hovering' so we quickly got our bins out just as it dropped out of sight!! Perseverance paid off as it reappeared, briefly, a few minutes later. Not great views but definitely the Rough-legged Buzzard!