Monday, 31 December 2007
Snape warren has got to be the quitest rspb reserve in suffolk, as it's not on their website and i've never seen anyone down there! However i like quite places and it's an exciting mix of estuary, reedbed, saltings, copse and heathland. My walk started on the very boggy public footpath along the seawall, the sun was shining, the wind was calm and an avocet scything it's way through the estuary mud was a suprise! Robins were singing, redshank were kleeping and gulls were wheeling through the air as i struggled throught the thick gloopy mud, trying to keep my balance as two egrets took off from a dyke (i checked they weren't cattle!)
Reaching the copse at the end of the path i took a right turn towards the heath, all the while seranaded by the sweet high notes of a goldcrest. Finally i reached the heath and the chance to try for my 210th bird of the year, dartford warbler. After losing the will to bird after seeing one too many fly away (untickable views) at the well known dunwich heath, i turned to this small patch of heathland as my last chance for the year. Walking the path i flushed many wrens and mipits and double checked every stonechat, very carefully, i reached some cover in the form of some high gorse bushes. This is where wearing my ultra unfashionable green hoodie comes in useful as i crouched behind some gorse for cover. Quickly i saw a tiny shape buzz out on to the tiop of a gorse bush, with my heart in my mouth i locked onto it with my bins to see the characteristiv outline of a wren! Damn, i cursed to myself, until i saw two long grey shapes flitting out, from the corner of my eye. Swinging round i locked onto them just as they went down into the heather. Damn!!!!!! they were almost certainly dartford warblers and just as i thought i was going to have another 'dartford utv dip day' one popos out on to the top of a gorse bush to save my yearlisting bacon! and just like london busses a few more pop out as well, with the cheek to show well. How dare they! I got good views and you can really appreciate how they are tiny, slender things with massive great tails sticking out the back!
North Warren 2:00-4:00
Now i was off in search of a lifer, the 'Tundra Bean Goose'. North warren by comparison to snape warren is a bland, freatureless and very cold stretch of flooded grazing marsh running by the suffolk coast. The path is relatively mud free and compared to the emotive, pioneering feel of the previous destination this one left me feeling a bit flat, by comparison. Especially as there were no birds on it! Eventually after an hours walking i found a gaggle of feral barnacles (and one escaped red breasted) and whitefronted geese. Unfortunately the path is an old railway embankment so i was struggling to scope the flock with all these trees in the way. After a frustrating search for viewing holes i found one where i managed to scope the whole flock from...and you guessed it, no sign of any tundra beans! Being a stubborn git and with time running out i kept scoping the flock, fortunately this tactic paid off as a large, dark goose head with a small orange patch at the end of an all dark bill, popped out. Tundra Bean! I watched as five of these siberian grass grazers moved out from behind a tuft of grass. The subtley distinctive goose, darker and bigger then the accompanying whitefronts was my 211th year listing bird and my 224th lifer. As io made my way back to the rreserve entranced i saw a sprawk with a purpose dash over my head. I was intrigued as this was my only b.o.p of the day so i followed it's progress and was amazed to see that somehow i missed a growing starling roost, over my head. I had time before i was getting picked up so i stood, waited and watched. The roost grew, and grew and grew until i estimated around 100,000 birds were there, much more exciting then one reputed to hold 20,000 i saw was. Eventually they all roosted in one swoop after spending five minutes impersonating emu's necks and other such improbable things in the growing gloom.
Happy new year folks, and i wish that 2008 brings you a suitable amount of lifers!
Friday, 28 December 2007
On the 27th I went to Carshalton Ponds to test the video camera out- I got 22 species which is pretty good for the site. Highlights were a brief Kingfisher, a couple of brief Goldcrests, great views of Grey Wagtail but best of all was a fantastic 1st Winter Grey Heron which showed down to about 5 feet! It even ate offerings of bread from passer bys. Lots of people stopped to see it and I was told about it several times by different people- I had to keep saying I knew and got some shots of it.
Of course I brought my D80 just in case too and got some pleasing shots. I got 200 photos in total but I am only posting a couple of my favourites (above-click for full sized images).
The initial plan for the trip was to loook for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, but ofcourse, when you plan to see one of these birds - you don't see one, and when you dont plan to see one of these birds - you don't see one!
Birds seen were Bittern - A fantastic bird, showing really well just outside the hide overlooking Piper Marsh for at least 20 minutes
Willow Tit - several birds calling around the reserve but only at the feeding station were these birds observed.
Siskin - 100+ birds were moving overhead.
A great day despeit the undesiable weather, due to the fact I had stunning views of Bittern, Feeding, Standing, and even Flying and year ticking Willow Tit
Year Total now - 222
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Snow Geese: 1 earlier in the year w/ Canadas on a pond, 2 just today on the barrier beach, including a blue morph.
Pink-footed Goose: NY's second reported, origins doubted by some pessimists.
Harlequin Duck: 3 drakes and a hen returning to their old spot after an absence of 2 years.
King Eider: 2, one self -found.
Sooty Shearwater: flyby from shore.
Razorbill: only my third ever.
Northern Saw-whet Owl: one adorable bird in an evergreen on the beach.
Long-eared Owl: 1 skittish bird, awful looks!
Western Kingbird: beautiful bird at a new site for me; 2nd for me in NY.
Western Tanager: cooperative bird in a backyard late winter.
Seaside Sparrow: Lucky find in marsh along with the more common Slatmarsh Shapr-tailed Sparrows, and my life Clapper Rail.
Smith's Longspur: 2nd state record! Woohoo!
Orchard Oriole: strange to see one in the county.
Belated happy holidays, and early happy New Years to all!
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
10 minutes down the road was Tottenhill GP's where we checked for Smew. Unusually there were none present (probably all at Welney!), but there were several Goldeneye.
Approaching Kings Lynn we decided to have a crack at the Great Grey Shrike at Roydon. The pattern repeated itself, despite the efforts of several birders, and we left without any yearticks, feeling somewhat annoyed. A brief check at Dersingham Bog still yielded no Shrike.
We stopped off at Matt's house to see if he wanted to go to Titchwell. Finding him in his pyjamas we left later than planned, but luckily there wasn't much at Titchwell so this wasn't too devastating! Connor was already on the coast doing a sponsored birdwatch with Jed and Sophie (the wardens of Holme NOA) and David Roche, and had already had Black-throated Diver (a potential lifer for us) and Grey Phalarope past on the sea at Holme. Apparently it was otherwise dead, which was more good news 'cos there was no way we would be able to get to the sea and back in time and have actually done some decent birding! We picked up some bacon sandwiches, then went to the first hide (having 2 water rails along the way) and found plenty of nice looking wildfowl, but nothing particularly exciting.
After helping somebody with gull identification, my phone rang in the hide! This is usually a bad thing, but this time it was Connor, ringing to tell us that Sophie had found a female Red-crested Pochard about 200m away (THANK YOU CONNOR!!!!!!!). Swiftly exiting the hide we used the patented Mr Reade Walk to reach the Pochard in the shortest possible time. Woohoo! A really unexpected lifer for all of us which more than made up for the day's dipping! We made our way back to the visitor centre as I needed to buy some new bins. The new release of a pair of RSPB bins made the choice more difficult than I thought. Vistrons were holding up well (partly because they look so cool), but I finally settled on a pair of 10x45 Viking GR's, putting me out £260, but they were definitely worth it!
Back at Matt's house I had a call from Connor saying they had a lovely Red-necked Grebe on the sea and some Med Gulls one hide down from where we had been, but also that there was a Glaucous Gull at Saddlebow! My heart beat faster and I didn't spare the accelerator on the way! At Saddlebow we got out of the car... and nearly cried. Literally thousands of gulls moving all around us, more than half of them juv. Herring Gulls, and we had to find a juv. Glauc. No chance! Using carefully honed bush-ninja surveillance skills we crept up on the flock and observed from behind a bush. It was horrible! After a while however, Simeon had it! He tried to direct me to it in a scope view full of gulls, but alas. I think I got onto the right bird, but it had its back to us and I couldn't clearly get the pink on the bill and it didn't flap for me, before I lost it in the mayhem. I suddenly went mad and lost my cool, leaving the cover of the bush and walking closer to the gulls. They all took to the air and scattered; Sim went back to the car. I spent another hour dredging, finding a possible Yellow-Legged (but it was on the water so I couldn't clinch it, and anyway the Glauc was far more important so I moved on) but failed to pick up on the much sought after second lifer of the day.
Just to put the icing on the cake, Connor called me back at home to tell me that the Shrike had been reported at 4.00, and someone else had had the Glauc and - yes, you guessed it - a Yellow-legged Gull.
Merry Christmas everybody!
Monday, 24 December 2007
I pulled into the wonder car park at Alton Water after a 20min car journey. After hurridly making the quater mile walk to the hide at tattingstone wonder bay in record time, i was pleased to see they had erected a new screen hide looking over part of the like the original hide didn't. After five minutes of scanning with the scope, grilling every great crested grebe my dad calls the birds over near the far bank of the lake, sticking the TSN-3 on 60X zoom I scanned over to where my dad was pointing and found two winter plumaged Slavonian Grebes. Much cleaner cut then the accompianing great cresteds, slavonians always brighten up a days birding with there crisp colours. Some more scanning amongst the assorted flocks of tufties and pochard revealed a rather bright female red crested pochard. This was a self found lifer for me and about as wild as you are likely to find with these birds!
Deciding to push my luck I travelled to the Orwell bridge for the wintering Peregrine Falcon. Before I got more then 5 metres down the footpath my dad stopped (again) to call out a bird by a green buoy far out in the middle of the Orwell. Cracking the scope out on the bird I was delighted to be greeted by the vaguely reptiliean jizz of a Diver. Identification was quickly confirmed as a Black Throated Diver probably the one that was reported yesterday further down river. My second lifer of the day in under two hours! I passed into the lee of the bridge for a respite from the wind. Scanning with the scope produced a bird which at first I presumed to be just a 'runt' Cormorant. However with the lack of any action on the Peregrine front, i took more interest in this bird. It's neck was extremely thin and the head small and crested for a cormorant. The bird unfortunately wasn't available for close comparison with other cormorants and I was satisfied with runt cormorant as the identification as it looked very dark coloured for a shag. However I was distractred from this by a huge flock of feral pigeons and rooks, exploding from the docks! I scanned and scanned but to no avail for a Peregrine until the flock was nearly settled again, when circling high above was a the Peregrine! I switched to scope views as the bird stooped on the pigeons, missed them all, tussled with some rooks and flew back to its perch on the supports of the bridge. Fantastic!
Getting back home and checking the Collins Bird Guide and the Birdguides photo gallery, convinced me i was looking at an adult winter shag, with the poor light making the bird seem so dark.
2 lifers and 5 Year ticks in three hours not bad! (220/205) and i momentarily draw ahead of jyothi on surfbirds listing! http://www.surfbirds.com/cgi-bin/surfbirds/display.cgi?list=list283&lowVal=0&highVal=49
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Friday, 21 December 2007
As soon as we arrived we were watching the birdfeeders which were absolutely full of Siskins, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tit, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Robins, Blackbirds etc. Also there were 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers flying around and at least 3 Nuthatches regularly visiting. And the best thing of all is that all of these birds were within bird-flu catching range. Does that make sense? No, I thought not.
Goldfinches and Siskins
Next we went around to the nice big and warm Ivy Lake North Hide. The usual large numbers of duck, especially Gadwalls, were present, but there was no sign of yesterday's Bittern in the reedbed. Consolation came through 10 flyover Black-tailed Godwits and a very bried bit of Cetti song.
We then crossed the road to the newly opened area with the Ibsley Water hides. There was very little from the screen overlooking Mockbeggar. From Lapwing Hide there were thousands of ducks and gulls coming in for the roost, including about 20 Goosander showing close to the hide. Unfortunately light conditions were poor so we moved around to Goosander Hide where we could see much better. I quickly picked up one of the 2 Black-necked Grebes present, and then the other one popped up next to it. Scanning across the pit hoping for a Smew produced many Great Crested and Little Grebes, commoner ducks and a few Goldeneye. Then across the other bank in the far distance I spotted the bird that has annoyed me so much over the last few months - the Great White Egret. On my 7th attempt of the year finally we were enjoying not so crippling views of this rare vagrant that has regularly visited the reserve for several years between August and February usually. A Green Sandpiper flew past the hide and a Grey Wagtail landed on the frozen area in front of us. Also the usual few Yellow-legged Gulls but really I couldn't be bothered to pick out all of them. But the roost often reaches double figures or sometimes much higher.
In total we saw 60 species in 2 and 3/4 hours.
Great White Egret
Thursday, 20 December 2007
6 Blue Tit
4 Great Tit
2 possibly 3 Coal Tit
1 Chaffinch female still
2 Song Thrush
2 Collared Dove
I expect there's something I've forgotten as well. Here is a digiscoped photo. Expect DSLRs and videos in about a month lol.
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Monday, 17 December 2007
Also if anyone wanted to know a good place for Finches in Lancs/Greater Manchester. Try Pearson's flash at Wigan. It is amazing, just on one of the paths caught up with 1 Fem Brambling, 30+ Lesser redpoll, 10+ Siskin, 50+ Goldfinch, 20+ Chaffinch, a couple Greenfinch and 2 Bullfinch. 7 Species of Finch!!! Plus they all showed incredibly and all at the same time as standing next to c5 close up Goldeneye.
Sunday, 16 December 2007
After a great evening (comprised of James Bond, chocolate, and beer), I grabbed 3 hours sleep before rising at 6.30am to head off to Slimbridge.
The gates do not normally open until 9.30am, but as there was a guided walk, lead by reserve warden Dave, which allowed myself and a small group of birders to have a walk round the reserve before it became swamped with visitors.
First up was the Peng Obs, where I picked up the first two yearticks of the day (187 and 188) in the form of White-fronted Goose and Bewick's Swan. Large numbers of commoner wildfowl were on display, including Pintail.
Moving along what I think is called North Finger, we stopped in each of the hides, seeing a few bits and bobs such as Lapwing, large numbers of White-fronts, and masses of Wigeon and Teal, but nothing of great interest. A Robin came to feed from Dave's hand, and a Cetti's Warbler was heard in the reeds.
At the last hide along the North Finger before the Holden Tower (I don't recall the name), scanning the White-fronts produced the wintering Tundra Bean Goose (189), and amongst the 97 Barnacles was a Dark-bellied Brent.
We entered the Holden Tower hide, and in reply to the inevitable "anything about?" came the reply that a Great Bustard was showing along the seawall! The words "it's got a wing-tag" cut through the initial excitement, but we were all soon onto the bird, which was at least half a mile distant. The yellow wing-tag read either 15 or 18, confirming that the bird was the individual that had wintered on the Somerset Levels.
Little else was seen from Holden Tower at this point save a few Redwings, as the tide was far out, and most of the waders were feeding on the mudflats of the Severn Estuary. We headed back towards the main part of the reserve, and made our way to the Zeiss Hide. Here, after 15 minutes of little but Shelducks, I was scanning the reed bed and was delighted to pick out the wintering Bittern (190), the first sighting of it today. Luckily everyone got onto the bird, which eventually came out of the reeds and put on a great performance in the open.
While the Bittern was showing, a pair of Water Rails also fed in the open, giving excellent views and allowing me to have both the Bittern and them in the same view in my scope.So, after a very good morning, we walked back to the visitor centre, where after a huge breakfast the group disbanded, and I headed back towards the Holden Tower. Here I spent a substantial part of the rest of the day, and after an hour or so was rewarded with great views of a pair of Peregrines hunting over the marshes.
In time, the Great Bustard flew over again, crossing over the Dumbles and moving high and heavy into the west.I walked back through the reserve to the Zeiss hide, where the Water Rails were showing again, and a smart male Sparrowhawk sat and preened in the scope. Amazingly, after 5 minutes, the Bustard flew over again, this time low, and heading north.
I left, and after a fruitless check of every other hide in the reserve, I made my way back to Holden Tower. I spent the rest of the day in the tower, and was rewarded on my 8th scan of the marshes where the White-fronts were feeding with a Ruff (191). The Peregrines put on another brief appearance, and both the Bean and Brent Geese showed distantly again.
So ended a very good day, with 5 year ticks, 2 of them lifers (Bean Goose and Bittern).
Many Black-headed and Herrng Gulls, Crows, Jackdaws etc 17 Grey Herons, at least 9 Tree Sparrows but otherwise not much.
No key holders came so I wasn't let in today and came away with 26 species for the 40 minutes from the public viewpoint.
I got a few videos though (see below)
In he last 45 minutes of daylight I follwed Kevin Guest's (the guy who showed us around yesterday) and went to Nonsuch until 10 minutes after dark to look for Tawny Owls, no luck, didn't even hear them! There was a female Kestrel hunting around the gardens just after dark though.
Tree Sparrows at feeders
Random stuff (yes, near the beginning that is a dead gull on the island)
In the video in order of appearance (I think)
Lapwings with a dead gull,
2 Common Gull
and I think that's it
Saturday, 15 December 2007
Phil and I popped over to Beddington today to try and see yesterday's Spoonbill, of course it was a one day job only staying an hour and flying off North-West, so it proved to be as untwitchable as most other Surrey Spoonbills. I have started to go to Beddington quite regularly now and am let in often. As usual there were loads of Gulls (no Glaucous because the tip wasn't working or something). it was quite active today with loads of passerines etc with more Tree Sparrows at the feeder than usual.
Kevin Guest took Phil and I quite deep into the Sewage works. In one of the little ditches there was a Green Sandpiper. Gulls included Common, Herring, Black-headed, probable 1st winter Yellow-legged and a Lesser/Great Black-backed which was big but had a smaller big and less white and steep tertials and pink legs; so it had things going for both there. There was also a very pale Herring Gull on the tip There was a Skylark with Linnets and Golfinches along one of the paths and a Little Egret flying there was also a Green Woodpecker in the usual place along the bank where there are loads of young Willows.
Here are some videos using the phone-scoping method again, which I am getting quite fond of.
Pale Herring Gull
Skylark (wait until the video has been running for 20 seconds then you can actually see it!)Tree Sparrows
The day started with my WEX group's annual birdwatching competition at Lakeside Country Park. My team, James' Falcons, came second with our highlights being 7 Pochard circling over, a Little Egret over, several Snipe flushed from the marshy bit and several flocks of Siskin. Altogether there were probably about 50 Siskin.
Afterwards we went to Gosport where there was no sign of the Ring-billed Gull on the Walpole Park boating lake, but there was a Med Gull. However on Anglesey Lake we had super views of the Red-necked Grebe plus a male Merganser and 2 Goldeneye. Unfortunately I didnt have a camera on me otherwise I could have got some super shots. After a nice lunch in the local greasy spoon we headed back to the boating lake where there was still no sign of the Ring-bill.
All the best everyone,
Picture kindly donated by Bill Aspin at same site - 29/11/07
Hi Everyone - This is my first post.
I have now tried to connect with the ever present Gaucous Gull at Fishmoor Res. 4 times. I arrived onsite at 15.50 and started to scan the Gulls onsite. No Luck by 16.04, until i was scanning the flying gulls in the direction of Winter Hill, and I saw the white wing sticking out like a sore thumb! A fabulous 1st winter bird and a Lifer.
Friday, 14 December 2007
This blog was a great idea David, and I'm looking forward to posting on it in future! Been checking out all your own sites and they are all very impressive - some of the photos are top class! I don't know how to put things in the right hand links box, so if you're interested my own blog is http://www.young-norfolk-birders.blogspot.com
I'll post some photos on here when I take any decent ones (this happens only very infrequently), so for now have a look at the gallery on Young Norfolk Birders.
Keep up the good work!
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Cat and Goldfinch
In order of appearance: Blue Tit, female Blackbird, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Starlings and finally the female Blackbird again
Male Goosander (back) with two female Smew (front)
Male Smew (white one far left) and 7 females
Adult winter Great-crested Grebe
The first hide hide we visited produced my first Yellow-legged Gull. I thought I saw this species before but recently knocked it off my life list because I convinced myself they were Herring Gulls (how inconvenient, they were sitting on the ground not showing their legs and sleeping, it was at Titchwell August 06 by the way). We also saw a few Snipe sleeping.
It was very convenient that it was right next to a couple of Herring Gulls and couple of Lesser Black-backs too, it had a very pleasant shade of grey actually, not as dark as a LBB Gull and yet much darker than a Herring Gull. I didn't think it was that obvious before. But of course, it was sitting on the water so we couldn't see the absolutely unquestionable feature; the yellow legs. But even so, it was a Yellow-legged. We also got good views of 2 female Marsh Harriers hunting
The next hide produced a drake Pintail, and some Wigeon and Shoveler along with a close Great-crested Grebe which was very photogenic.
The last hide, the Scott hide, produced two female Goosander with a male and guess what- 7 female Smew, and it gets better, a male and whats more they were so close, well for Smew that is. Views were great, Smews are one of my favourite birds, males are so beautiful. I saw a few distantly here in January this year but these views were exceptional.
On the way back to the car I saw the man who pointed out the Yellow-legged Gull again and asked me if I'd seen anything, I told him about the Smew etc and he said he saw a possible Caspian Gull fly past, at this point it was dusk but I was desperate so I went off into the hide with him and his mate, there were stupid amounts of Gulls roosting, mainly Great Black-backs we picked out a couple of odd looking Gulls but we couldn't confirm the IDs, whatever they were the bill was too thick for a Caspian. After a short while it was almost fully dark so I went back to the car and we went home. If it didn't get dark this early we would have detoured off to Scotney gravel pits for the drake Long-tailed Duck, a would be lifer. But of course no chance at that time.
Despite the weather and the scope breaking- again (!!!) it was a very good day.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
After this episode, I guessed it decided it might be safe to grab another peanut or two, and I was able to get a short video:
EDIT: I forgot to mention that: no, the nuthatch is not barking in the video. It is my "favorite" (sarcasm emphasized) neighbor dog, "Baxter." Baxter enjoys barking all day, every day, at the House Sparrows nearby. As you might expect, the House Sparrows simply ignore Baxter, resulting in a furious pup.
Thanks all for inviting me to this great Blog.
I thought i'd first post some nice colourful pics.
Here's a few pictures of Mandarins i took on Sunday at Lightfoot green.
There were many Lapwings, Wildlfowl (including Wigeon) loads of Cormorants, Gulls etc. We watched one Cormorant struggle as it tried to get an absolutely huge carp-like fish down its throat.
Gulls were interesting with a Yellow-legged and a Caspian (I got a phone scoped video of the Caspian). The Caspian was my first confirmed and the Yellow-legged was my second with one at Dungeness the week before.
The highlight was the Bittern that someone eventually located in the reeds (an area of reeds we weren't expecting it to be in) and I got good veiws through the scope and a phone-scoped video (hopefully my videos will improve after Christmas because I am getting a powerful 40x optical zoom digital video camera!)
Enjoy (the Bittern shows better right at the end of the video):
Monday, 10 December 2007
Eiders at Titchfield Haven
Curlew Sandpipers at Keyhaven
Snipe at Brandon Marsh
gonna go down rainham marshes way for a bit on saturday, try and tick rock or water pipit at last. Great to finally have this blog as this idea has been running through my head a while now.
Btw, my photo gear is a nikon d50 and an ancient sigma 400m telephoto (manual everything.)
We are all teenage birders, mainly in the UK though one of us is from Nebraska. We will be posting our pictures, trip reports etc here and we hope you enjoy reading our blog!
From David, Tom, Tim, Steve, Nick, James, Connor, Simeon, Matthew and Jyothi