Monday, 31 March 2008

Dorset 23rd-24th March 2008

I went to Dorset for a night last weekend. I was hoping to go to Cheddar reservoir and get a Bonaparte's Gull, with a Red-necked Grebe and some Scaup, so there would be three lifers in one day. But it was not to be.It was too far away from where we were staying. But despite this major disappointment, I still managed to fit in some fantastic birding!On the Sunday, we were nearing Dorset when a Raven flew over the car, chasing a Carrion Crow, it even tumbled for me! This was great, it is one of my favourite birds and an unexpected year tick.We arrived at the hotel, where there were nesting Jackdaws and Rooks nearby, but fortunately for me, we were too early to check in and settle into our room so we ended up going to Pennington Marshes earlier than planned. The marsh was interesting with lots of Dark-bellied Brent Geese (2008 tick) and a female Goosander with a few male and female Red-breasted Mergansers swimming next to each other! Other birds of note included a very showy Greenshank with a red ring on its right leg that I really must report (2008 tick) and one or two Ringed Plover and a few Grey Plover.Black-tailed Godwits were plentiful. Otherwise, there was not much of note.The next day we headed off to Arne RSPB, first we went round the smaller heath trail. Before we started, I had a look at the feeders, and I saw a Marsh Tit, quite unexpected and yet another year tick. I saw one singing later on, this is the first time I have heard this. The gorse itself did not provide much, but the view of the river from the trail did provide some great birds with 11 pure white Spoonbill, all either asleep or half asleep; every so often I would see one awaken and show me its strangely shaped bill for which they get their name. They were lovely, and as a bonus, another year tick. There were lots of Shelduck and one or two Greenshank there too. As I was scanning, I heard a scratchy song, immediately Dartford Warbler came to mind. Sure enough, after a good while of searching it popped up for a second. A brief but good view, a year tick and just brilliant. I had already seen 3 birds that I hardly ever see, and I realised that in spring Arne would be an even more fantastic place to be.We finished the trail, with nothing else of note being seen and went to have lunch in a nearby pub. I persuaded mum and dad who had until then broken they're promise to return after lunch and do the rest of it, to do so.We agreed only to walk up to the viewpoint and hide along the other trail. The farm was pretty disappointing, but I did see a Redwing and a Fieldfare right next to eachother on the way back. It turned out that I missed the viewpoint and the raised hide didn't show me anything interesting other than a few Red-breasted Mergansers in the harbour. I don't know what it is about this year and Red-breasted Mergansers, I didn't see any last year, or the year before or before and before and maybe even further back! I have seen about 30 this month alone.On the way back the deer let us get extremely close and I saw the above mentioned Fieldfare and Redwing. Near the car park a Buzzard flew over.When packing away, what did we see on the latest sightings board? Male Hen Harrier and Rough-legged Buzzard. 'oh....' I uttered to myself. Yes, a disapointment but I did see Marsh Tit, very close and singing, a Dartford Warbler, singing (I think i was the only person that day to see one), 11 Spoonbill, Red-breasted Mergansers, Redwing and Fieldfare sitting right by each other and much more. Although, to be honest, missing the Harrier and Rough leg is of course still really bugging me.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Spring Migrants at Bockhill

Spring is in full swing down at Bockhill, with Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Wheatears already arriving en masse. Sand Martins have been seen, and large numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares are gathering to leave- some have already started to head north. It won't be long before the pair of Black Redstarts at Dover Castle arrive and breed. I took some nice photos of the youngsters last year.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Sand Martins - Brockholes Quarry, Lancs SD585305 - 9th March 2008 - Zac Hinchcliffe

5 Sand Martin at the Quarry today constituted the earliest onsite spring records...previous record was 11th March in 2001

this also meant I along with several other birders at the quarry saw Lancashires first birds of the year...excellent news! (y)

See my blog for full account of todays birding and pics of Barn Owl, Water Pipit
, Glossy ibis etc

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Hen Harrier movie

Here is my video of the female Hen Harrier featured in my last post.

Monday, 3 March 2008

3 dips two scores, Sheppey 2/3/08

I went to Sheppey today, this was the second time I have tried to fit three Sheppey sites into a day, and the second time that it didn't quite work!We left just after 10am (later than planned, yet better than normal) and arrived at Capel Fleet at around 11:40am, after constant scanning into the distance, starting to go a bit mad with how unlucky I am with this site (been 3 times, best I've seen is a very breif ringtail Hen Harrier). I went ver to another birder, hoping he'd be able to get me onto something good, but he was having no more luck than me... there were some Bewick's Swans amongst about 40 Mute Swans, which I was pleased with. We moved on to the raptor viewpoint, saw nothing but a male Kestrel and left. As we drove past I saw a frustratingly Corn Bunting like bird on a wire, surely it was one, but we couldn't stop! I wish we could have stopped because Corn Buntings always prove to be a pain to get onto the year list. I will have to pay Sheppey a visit in late 2008 when the winter migrants come back, to get the species I missed today (basically everything!). We almost ran over a Stoat on the way back!We arrived at Swale/Shellness NNR, I was very hopeful with little doubt that I would miss the Hooded Crow or Barnacle Geese. I went over the ridge and started walking towards the beech... oh dear... no Geese on the marsh. I arrived at the beech, there were loads of waders running around, but I just knew that the Crow wasn't there... I could just feel it in the atmosphere. Relentless scanning revealed some year ticks, mostly waders, which I haven't had much of this yearr. My 2008 ticks seen at this site were: Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot.I scanned the site for anything like Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers or anything that would be a lifer to make up for the Crow, I was right, 8 Red-breasted Mergansers on the sea, 2 of which were gorious males. A lifer!When we got back in the car we discovered that mum had left her sun glasses on the beach, time was getting on and I was getting stressed up, I had already spent too much time on the beach not accepting that I had missed the Geese and Crow (over an hour, and by this time it was getting on 4:00pm). Dad badgered me into going back to get them with mum, which turned out good because I added the latter two species at the end of the last paragraph onto my year list.We finally left and as we approached Elmley Marshes, I saw an unusual Bird of Prey hunting over the field next to us. I got my binoculars on it and shouted "HEN HARRIER!!!". It was a gorious ring tail showing fantastically and I got some pleasing video footage of it as we stopped the car up a drive. This was a very nice surpise after missing the two Birds that I thought were almost garunteed today. I watched it for nearly 5 minutes before we had changed postition, ending up in the middle of the road and there was no choice but to go. We stopped by the round about further on and looked cross the field but failed to locate the Bird.We arrived at the begginning to the long entrance track at Elmley and soon saw a Red-legged Partridge right out in the open! A year tick, great video opportunity and one of the few times I've seen one for a while before it ran away into cover! There were loads of Little Egrets along the track, a few Kestrels (one was on a post next toa cattle grid, letting us get very close), loads of Coot and Wigeon and some other stuff. There was a very close Skylark right by the car which I photographed. There were Lapwing, Redshank and Ringed Plover flying about and a few Pheasants and Grey Herons. I couldn't go past the car park because we had to be back soon to take someone out for a meal, so, frustrated as I was at being so close to getting Short-eared Owl, Peregrine and more I had to make do with what I could see around and from the car park. People told me about the Short eared Owls and Peregrines they'd seen just 10 minutes down the track! Inside one of the owl nest boxes on the trees behind the toilets, there was a Little Owl type thing... it could have been patterns in the wood, but others seemed to think it was a Little Owl. In the 20 minutes or so that I was there, I didn't notice it move, so I am going to have to not accept it. It was too dark to see what it was really. I went back to the car reluctantly, and as we left, we saw a lot of the same things along the track that we did on the way in, as well as a male and a female Gadwall flying up.

Saturday, 1 March 2008


Hi all! Allow me to introduce myself, as I am a new contributor to this site. My name is Benjamin Young, and I'm a 13 (nearly 14) year old birder from East Kent. I'll admit that I'm not much of a twitcher, though I do jump at any occasion to find vagrants from Southern Europe (I used to live in the south of Spain, you see). My local patch is the rifle range south of Kingsdown, where Black Redstarts and Fulmar breed. I have seen offshore divers and Gannets here too, along with several oiled guillemots. My British List numbers 156, which is fairly impressive. I haven't seen many rarities in Britain, though an overhead White Stork in 2004 and a Red Kite in 2007 are probably my best sightings. I'm quite keen to become a professional photographer, though I still have a lot to learn.

Today I decided to head for Folkestone Warren. It is without doubt the place to see Mediterranean Gulls. I counted 33 on the sea and on the rocks. Also of interest was a female Kingsfisher using the rockpools as fishing sites and a Rock Pipit that gave amazingly good views. I also heard a Chiffchaff today; it must be a very early arrival.