Monday, 2 April 2012

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.

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