Friday, 27 March 2009

Peregrines are Back

Hey all, Ben here,
My posts are going to become less and less frequent now I'm spending most weekends doing other things (girlfriends have to take priority over pastimes, you know - not that that's a bad thing!). I will post as soon I return from the Coto Donana to tell you of this year's escapades, but for now I have little to say. As I have already said, birdwatching opportunities have been thin on the ground lately, but I did manage a short trip to Bockhill last Saturday to check for early migrants. Alas, no Swallows, Blackcaps or early Whitethroats, but I did hear and see several Chiffchaffs and witness the return of our local peregrines. An escaped hybrid falcon known locally as 'The Thing' prevented them from breeding successfully last year, but maybe this year...?

I hope you all have a good Easter Holiday, and good luck with the birdwatching for the rest of you!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers at last!

Hi. I finally caught up with Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers this winter, after being advised on a secret location I looked for them after school yesterday (17th March 09). Before too long I found a male and a female, which both showed well. I got some photos but they're not great. I am pleased with the photo of the female displaying though.


Sunday, 8 March 2009


I always thought that woodcocks travelled by night; they do when they migrate, as far as I know. Well, would you believe it? This is the second time I've seen a woodcock migrating by day! This bird today came zooming in off the sea and flew straight past me as I was walking along the sea wall!

Apart from the curiosity of the bird's day-time travel, I was just ecstatic to see one AND photograph it! This is my first semi-decent photo of one of my favourite birds, so I'm more than pleased!

Mealy Redpoll

Mealy Redpoll, Sevenoaks WR, 8th March 2009, excuse the crap record shot.


Saturday, 7 March 2009

Birding by Bike in New York

Today was the warmest day of the year yet (64 F, 18 C), so naturally it seemed like a good day to be out. Indeed, the early singers were making themselves heard: Mourning Dove, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird and House Finch mainly.

Within 5 miles of biking I had added several new birds to my Bigby 2009 list (see the details of a Big Green Big Year here: including Red-bellied Woodpecker and Common Grackle. Then I arrived at the local state park, which is often THE place to be in early spring migration. True, it was only early March, but there are more attractions there than just migrants.

The first I place I was eager to check was the small pond. Just several weeks ago, a moribund Thick-billed Murre had shown up at that little wooded puddle and could be swimming among Mallards, Hooded Merganser, Green-winged Teal and an American Black Duck. Naturally the auk wasn't there, but all the ducks except some Mallards and the black duck had left. Fortunately, a few hundred yards south was a much larger lake. Way out was one of the missing suspects (Hooded Merganser) along with Ring-necked Ducks, American Coots, and a surprise pair of Common Merganser. Generally, Mergus merganser is the rarest of the trio in the area, but this winter they have been showing strongly.

Moving on to the woodland, I was disappointed not to kick up any Fox Sparrows (reliable there), but was also puzzled to hardly see any sparrows at all. Consolation: a group of 5 Rusty Blackbirds! A very localized winterer, mostly due to a ridiculous population decline of more than 90%. Also in a very small square of woods I found singles of Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy Woodpeckers and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, as well as 3 flyover Great Black-backed Gull (which are very rare flyovers just 5 miles north!).

I was very content at that point, but had a triple surprize on the way out. Back at the smaller pond what I thought was a piece of trash, began swimming around and dabbling. Not one of styrofoam cups, but rather a drake Northern Shoveler. Still no Green-winged Teal, or were there? Two small ducks on the other side... teal? No, a pair of Wood Ducks! A very nice bonus! Then just as I was about to give a third small duck came into view. That one had a white verticle stripe on its side. Finally!

All in all, I increased by Bigby waterfowl collection exponentially (last year I only had Mallard and Canada Goose!) and nailed some tricky visitants. I think with a bit more effort than last year, and some springtime visits, perhaps I can break my pathetic record of 94 for the year. I don't really like the year listing aspect as much when greenhouse gases are emitted just to chase easy birds every year. This sits better on my conscious. :)

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Displaying Goshawk Thursley Common

A good day was had at Thursley Common on Sunday with a couple of friends. We enjoyed good, though distant views of a displaying male Goshawk and good views of a Woodlark. This brings my year list up to 132. No Dartfords or Stonechats... the snow must have killed some birds off then... :-(. David.