Thursday, 30 December 2010

Putting a Gloss on it

With seemingly the whole country being fogbound Paul and I decided not to risk going to Norfolk today. We instead decided to visit Berkshire, where there were 3 good birds on offer, all within 7 or 8 miles of each other.
I planned to meet up at Pauls house at 9, so on the way I decided to pop into Oldbrook estate to see if the recent Waxwing flock was still around. Eventually after checking most of the estate I found the flock roosting in a large tree in the middle of a roundabout on Century Avenue. A quick count gave me 47 birds. Hopefully this was a good omen for the rest of the day.

Our first stop was a place called Freemans Marsh, just outside Hungerford, where a Glossy Ibis had turned up a few days earlier.
Finding this bird proved to be no problem at all, just 250 yards walk from the car, paddling around in the river, at a range of a ridiculously close 20 yards.
The river also held a couple of Little Grebe and Water Rails often in the same vicinity as the Ibis.
During the week there had been reports of Jack Snipe in the area, so a check of all the nearby side-streams was called for. Unfortunately no Jacks but a couple of Common Snipe, 2 Green Sandpipers another Water Rail and a Little Egret.
We spotted some fish in the river and one half eaten specimen on the bank which I'm fairly sure were Greyling _ a first for me.

Glossy Ibis
 Our next stop was the nearby village of Great Shefford, where the instructions were to stop at the first bus stop and look across the sheep field towards the river.
 Another easy one, as we hardly had to get out of the car to see a Great White Egret consorting with 4 of it's smaller relatives, Little Egrets.
A distant shot shows the difference in size between the two species (click on the picture twice to bring it up bigger)
Great White Egret
Our final stop was just a mile down river where a Dipper had taken residence. Not such a rare bird but the first one in Berkshire for many years. We gave this an hour or so, but a couple of Grey Wagtails, a flyover flock of Siskins and some semi-tame Muscovy Ducks on the river were the best we could find.

Two out of three of our target birds added up to a very enjoyable day, and lunch at the pub at Whickham rounded it off nicely.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Attenborough Ducks

We were back in Nottingham today to take Mum-in-law home.
Time was a bit limited so I spent an hour or so around the visitor centre at Attenborough Nature Reserve.
The water around the centre was one of the only areas on the whole reserve that wasn't frozen, so it was absolutely packed with ducks, most of which were taking advantage of the grain that was being thrown in to feed them.
 Even normally shy species like Pochard and Tufted Ducks were showing as close as a couple of yards.
female Pochard
Drake Tufted Duck
One bird that was obviously an escape was this Bahama or White-cheeked Pintail.
Bahama Pintail

pair of Egyptian Geese on the roof of Nature Reserve Visitor Centre

Two female and one drake Red-crested Pochard are of unknown origin.
Drake Red-crested Pochard
female Red-crested Pochard

Drake Pochard
 Behind the Visitor Centre are several bird feeders and these played host to several Tree Sparrows, a large flock of Long-tailed Tits, a few Great and Blue and a single Willow Tit.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Happy Christmas

Pied Wagtail in my garden today
Seasons Greetings to everyone who takes the time to visit my Blog.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Whoop, Whoop.

With lots of reports of wild geese being seen across the country, I thought it was time I checked out my local Greylag flock at Gayhurst Quarry.
 The walk down produced the usual variety of common birds, with a pair of Bullfinches looking very smart in the snowy conditions.
Fishing Pit, Spinney and Reedy Pits were all totally frozen over and totally birdless.
 The Goose flock was easily found though, feeding on the potatoes that had been scattered on the field between the rivers. And what a flock it was; around 350 Greylags, 150 Canadas and about 60 Swans.
I did my usual scan through, not finding any Whitefronts, Bean or Pinkfooted Geese, but a look through the Swans did produce one with a yellow beak - Result ! an adult Whooper.
This was my 4th type of Swan on 'the patch' this year, following Mute, Bewicks and Black ( 5th if I include Polish)
 Motorway Pit was partly unfrozen and absolutely packed with ducks. It wouldn't be an overestimate to say there were a thousand Wigeon, 500 Mallard, 100 Pochard, 20 Tufted Ducks and a few Teal. The drake Goldeneye was still present and 2 drakes and a female Goosander dropped in.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Blackwits on Ice

I had a bit of work snow clearing today at Great Linford.
This turned out to be one of my best local birding mornings in quite some time.
While actually working I looked up to see a flock of around 25 birds fly slowly over. Unbelievably yet more Waxwings.
 So when I had finished I decided to do a bit of a drive around to try and find them.
I had no luck there, but I did spy a flock of small birds feeding in a nearby Silver Birch. Going through them carefully, I identified around 20 Siskin, 10 Lesser Redpoll and one that was spot on for a Meally Redpoll.
Slightly larger, much 'icier' plumage, a very white wing-bar and what I consider clinched it for me, a very pale patch above the eye.

 I continued on to Tongwell Lake, where very few birds were present as only a very small unfrozen patch remained.
Coots, Mallards, a few Wigeon, just the one Shoveler, a Little Grebe and an assortment of Black-headed and Common Gulls.
 But I was then forced to do a double-take.
Surely they weren't Black-tailed Godwits standing on the ice! An unusual bird in Buckinghamshire at the best of times, but in December !, at Tongwell Lake !, standing on the ice !
 Sure enough there they were , 2 of them, not more than 30 yards away.

Black-tailed Godwits
All too soon they realised their mistake and were off in the direction of Blakelands. The photo is another one of them, there record shots, but click on it twice to see that they were there.
 I continued my Waxwing hunt around Giffard Park, not finding Waxwings, but another Redpoll flock, this time about 50 birds, but they were spooked before I got the chance to look through them.

Monday, 20 December 2010

More Waxers

I wasn't expecting to do any birding today as we took a trip to Nottingham to fetch the Mother-in-Law down to ours for Christmas.
 The bad road conditions meant I had to concentrate more than usual, but 3 Buzzards and a Kestrel were noted on the way up.
 On arrival in Notts we decided to stop at a retail park in Chilwell, conveniently a place where there had been some sizeable flocks of Waxwings reported in recent days.
 While Angela was in the shops I decided to take a walk around. However, while I located several likely looking Rowan trees, no Waxwings were found.
 So it was back in the car and on our way.
We had only travelled a couple of hundred yards down the road when I could see quite a large group of birds sitting in a roadside tree. As we neared , all of them - I estimated about 60 - flew across the road right in front of us. Yes they were Waxwings !

Friday, 17 December 2010

Reward for doing my Duty 2

I nipped  in to Tongwell at lunchtime to see what was about. The answer was the usual Mallards, Wigeon, Shovelers,Gadwall, Pochards and Tufteds. Plus Canada Geese, Mute Swans and a few Coots, Great-crested Grebes, Moorhens and Black-headed and Common Gulls.
Just as I was leaving, I noticed this Mallard with some rather natty headgear.
 Somehow it had managed to get a piece of plastic - the sort that holds 4 cans together - stuck on it's head.
 Luckily a Lady came along with  some bread to feed the ducks, so I managed cadge some off of her and entice it close enough to catch it.
 I was able to remove it luckily as a strip of plastic was keeping it's beak open and stopping it swallowing anything other than small fragments. He was able to fly off none the worse for his experience other than the loss of a few feathers when I grabbed hold of him.
 My reward for my 'good deed' was almost instant as I decided to check the White-berried Sorbus trees around the corner in Bessemer Court.
 Six birds flew in and started feeding up, all of them Waxwings. Magic !
4 of the 6 Waxwings

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


When I realised I had  a missed call followed by a voicemail from Paul I realised there must be something pretty good around.
 It turned out he had found a Short-eared Owl at Linford in the field that a couple of years ago hosted 5 of these beauties and 6 Barn Owls.
I've been feeling really rough lately so I didn't need much of an excuse to leave work to go and see it for myself.
Paul was just leaving as I arrived, but told me where he had last seen the bird, and that Ray Stroud was up ahead looking for it.
 I walked down Swans way as far as the river, but there was no sign so I started walking back.
I could see Ray across the other side of the field, but it didn't seem as though he could find it either, but then after about an hour, all of a sudden there it was, right in the middle of the field quartering away busily. I watched this fabulous creature for about half an hour, the orange in it's wings standing out so well on such a dull day. At one point the bird was heading straight at me - surely no finer sight in birding -but saw me when it got to within 10 yards or so and veered off.
 I saw it pounce on Prey 7 or 8 times but each time it came up empty clawed, so there obviously is food for him there, it's just he isn't that good at catching it.
 The Kestrel is still around and I could hear Siskins on the reserve, but other than that, there wasn't really much around.

Monday, 13 December 2010

No Fire but plenty of Ice.

A lunchtime visit to Caldecotte Lake today. A Firecrest had been seen a couple of times in the last week near the Monellan Drive car park, but despite a good hours search there was no sign. There were however a good variety of other small birds around, as the small stream was unfrozen and a lot of them were bathing in it. Chaffinches, Goldfinches,Greenfinches, some quite confiding Bullfinches, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits. Fallen Crab Apples were being gorged on by Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Redwings.
 Round on the mostly frozen North Lake the Scaup was again present after having been seen at Willen Lake yesterday afternoon.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Rewarded for 'Doing my Duty'

I don' really enjoy doing bird surveys, but I felt I had to do my bit towards the B.T.O. Bird Atlas so have put my name down for a couple of squares.
 I had a couple of spare hours this afternoon so I decided to walk around my Lathbury Tetrad.
Thrushes were abundant, especially Fieldfares, with Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Redwings in smaller numbers.
Down on the river, there were lots of Mute Swans, a few Mallard and surprisingly a fair few Teal and Wigeon and a couple of Snipe flew up noisily.
Raptors  in the form of two Buzzards, a Kestrel and a noisy Little Owl were encountered on the circuit.
 Heading back towards the village a large flock of Goldfinches perched high on a Hawthorn hedge. While counting them (52 and 1 Linnet) I heard what I initially assumed was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, but then to my great surprise and delight a smaller bird flew out and over my head. It's bouncing flight and black and white barred wings leaving me in no doubt that it was in fact a LESSER- spotted Woodpecker. This is an extremely rare bird in the county these days and my first in Bucks for several years.

            I love Bird Surveys!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Caldecotte revisited and Broughton Grounds

With the ground frozen solid I didn't work this morning.
No-one had seen the Scaup at Caldecotte since Friday so as I suspected it was still around I decided to take another look as I was nearby.
 Sure enough in almost exactly the same place, there it was. I wonder where it had been over the weekend ?
On the South Lake there were now 14 Goosanders amongst the throng of Tufteds, Pochard, Mallards, Wigeon, Coots and Great-crested Grebes.

 I then took a walk around Broughton Grounds mainly because I hadn't been for quite a while. I didn't actually see that many birds here, but a couple of flocks of roving Siskins and a flushed Woodcock were definite highlights.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Goosanders Galore at Gayhurst

An interesting walk around Gayhurst Quarry and Quarryhall today.
 The track down to the pits provided the usual fare, with Finches of the Green, Gold, Chaff and Bull variety,a few Reed Buntings are now back at the feeders in the garden of the last house, where a Treecreeper scaled the side of an old Silver Birch.
 At the Wood an unusual call for these parts had me looking around the treetops to see a Nuthatch, - a site first for me.
 Fishing Pit was largely frozen except for a section in the middle where seven Goosanders were the only birds on the water. This was a site record as far as I was concerned - my previous best being five-, but only for a matter of minutes as another nine flew in and landed. They seemed to be actually fishing under the ice, but got bored quickly and all sixteen flew off together.
 A dead Swan on the ice of Spinney pit had me concerned for a while as I thought it may have been the Polish youngster, but it's black feet confirmed it wasn't, and I in fact found this family were fine and had relocated to Motorway Pit which was ice-free.
 Motorway Pit was rammed with Ducks, around 300 Wigeon, a similar number of Mallard and about a hundred Teal. The only diving Duck was a male Goldeneye, possibly the same one that was here last week.
 A very large flock of Greylag and Canada Geese were feeding on the potatoes that have been spread onto the fields between the rivers - an imminent shoot ?
 At Quarryhall, the Yellowhammer flock is building up with about 30 birds present, also a similar number of Chaffinch and Goldfinch. Three Tree Sparrows graced the hedgerow and a few Meadow Pipits were around.
 The Mute Swan flock were found just below the farm, but as yet there are no 'guests' within the herd.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Cold Caldecotte

There have been some good birds turning up at Caldecotte Lake lately, including a Sanderling and a possible Scaup yesterday, so I thought I would have a look around today.
The North Lake was largely frozen, but did hold reasonable numbers of Tufted Duck, Pochard, Wigeon, Coot, Great-crested Grebes, a female Shoveler and two female Goosander.
While walking around the eastern side I noticed a larger looking 'Tuftie' that completely left the water on it's dives. This was indeed a Scaup, my initial thought being that it was a female, but on looking at my photos I am now thinking that it is a first winter bird.

 Moving round to South Lake, where there were literally hundreds of Tufted Ducks (630 counted by Bob F later today) lots of Pochard, Wigeon and Gadwall, 3 Little Grebe, 10 Goosander a male Goldeneye and male Shoveler. 2 Kingfishers and a Grey Wagtail were seen and a gang of around 20 Siskin were in the Alders right down  the far end.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Arctic Willen

With the big freeze continuing I took a walk around Willen today. Most of the 2 lakes were frozen over, with just a few areas of open water.
At the inlet stream a Water Rail ran around just a few feet away . 
 The North Lake held masses of Coot, Wigeon, Gadwall, a few Teal and Great-crested Grebe, 5 Little Grebe and singles of Little Egret, Snipe and Kingfisher. 
An odd sight was this Chinese Water Deer walking around on the ice before it wandered off onto the island.                                                                                                                    

Chinese Water Deer
 On South Lake the water birds were much the same as the North, with the addition of 12 Goosander , 3 Goldeneye and a few Shoveler. 15 Siskins were feeding in some bank side Alders.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Waxwings of Woburn

I had spent part of the morning trying to find some Waxwings around Milton Keynes - we have lots of Rowan trees laden with berries so surely its only a matter of time.
When news that the flock at nearby Woburn had risen to 105 it proved too tempting to ignore. 
The whole of Leighton Road seems to be planted up with pink berried Rowans and these are obviously a big favourite with our Scandinavian visitors.
I only found 18 birds but Hey with quality like this quantity is unimportant.                                                                                                   

Snowy Tongwell

Canada Goose


For the first time ever I was snowed off in November, so I decided to drive around some known areas with berry laden Rowan trees to see if any Waxwings had decided to grace Bucks with their presence. The answer was of course no, so I decided to take a wander around Tongwell Lake.                                 
drake Pochard

 Most of the lake was frozen over, so the open area of water held quite a high concentration of waterfowl, which included Great-crested Grebes, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard and a whopping 103 Shoveler.A lone Snipe was flushed from the bank side

Walking around the wooded area on the far side I discovered a group of 4 Siskin feeding amongst a small flock of Goldfinches and a bunch of 14 Redpoll that contained 2 slightly larger greyer birds, which after a bit of research I am convinced were Meally Redpolls


Sunday, 28 November 2010

Boy It was cold this morning !.

Are we mad ? was the thought that entered my head as I scraped the ice off the car at 6:30 this morning.
The temperature was around minus 9, but Paul and I had arranged to meet Mike Wallen at Steps Hill, mainly to try and see an unusually late Ring Ousel that had been around a few days, but also to see what other migrants might be around.
 It was absolutely perishing so there was no standing around. Incredibly there was a lot of birds around in the berry laden bushes, mainly Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings, but smaller numbers of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Bullfinches and  assorted Tits.
A herd of 14 black Fallow Deer on the North slope were good to see as they effortlessly leapt a 4 foot fence as if it wasn't there and a Fox was seen to narrowly miss catching one of the many Rabbits that were present.
 Unfortunately we didn't find the Ring Ousel, but if it has any sense it will have pushed off southwards.

 Next stop was Wilstone Reservoir, where we hoped to see the wintering Water Pipit.
Again we missed out, but compensated with 2 Whooper Swans, 30 odd Golden Plover, male Goldeneye, Redshank and Kingfisher amongst the many Coot, Wigeon, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Gadwall.

 While on the Hills, Paul had received a text from Keith 'Holding Moments' O'Hagen that he had found a bird he was unsure of at Caldecotte. So we decided to call in to check it out.
 After a brief search we located a beautiful Redhead Smew close to the Cormorant island and after checking with Keith, this was indeed his bird.
 Finally I had seen Smew in the county this year after several attempts.Thanks Keith.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Gayhurst and Swans Way

My first visit to Gayhurst Quarry in a month.
Two Jays in the large Oak near the stables  escorted me all the way down the hedgerow to the wood.
 At Fishing Pit I met up with Gen and we scanned the lake to see 2 male and 1 female Goosander, several Great-crested Grebe, a whole lot of Wigeon, half a dozen Teal and a few Tufted Ducks.
The fields over towards Quarryhall contained a large number of Lapwings, 30 to 40 Golden Plover and a few Fieldfare.
 On Spinney  Pit the Swan family are still present with the Polish youngster now looking like an adult, compared to it's still grey siblings.
 A large flock of mixed Greylag and Canada Geese was present beside the footpath, but didn't contain anything different other than a Hybrid between the two species.
 Motorway Pit was relatively quiet, a drake Goldeneye being the best on offer. Less a hundred Mallard now remain, so whether they have been all shot or have just moved away only time will tell.
 A quick look at the pollarded Willow in between the two rivers produced a Little Owl trying to absorb a bit of sunlight while tucking itself in away from the cold wind.

 At dusk I took a walk from Linford Reserve down to the old ruined church to see if I could find any Owls.
No such luck but I did see predators in the form of a Kestrel, a Sparrowhawk, 4 Herons over on their way to roost on the reserve and 2 Foxes.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Frampton and Freiston

Our latest RSPB group trip was the Lincolnshire Reserves Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore.

Black-tailed Godwit
Our first destination was Frampton. Before we had even left the car park a flock of a dozen or so Tree Sparrows greeted us as they flew to the feeders by the visitor Centre.
 From the centre around a hundred Black-tailed Godwits fed around the shallow scrapes, along with a few Ruff and a good few Wigeon, Gadwall and Teal. Three Corn Buntingswere a good sighting by the side of the track.
 Walking around to the 360* Hide a flock of 30 plus Twite bathed in the pools.Around 50 Curlews were on the surrounding fields and a large mixed Lapwing/Golden Plover flock flew around. Dunlin, Snipe and a Turnstone made up the wader contingent.
 Some smart drake Pintails and several Shelducks were scattered around.
Brent Geese were everywhere and one flock numbered several hundred. 8 Pinkfeet were brief visitors.


 After lunch we moved on to Freiston, where again several Tree Sparrows met us in the car park.
The Lagoon held much the same as at Frampton, but also 5 or 6 Little Grebe, a lone Oystercatcher, a couple of hundred Feral Pigeons.
Two Barn Owls hunting the far bank were a good sighting as were 3 Whooper Swans that dropped in briefly.
 A walk around the sea bank produced several Little Egrets and a a very distant Peregrine perched on a post out on the salt marsh. 

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Garden Treat

A real surprise in the garden today in the form of a Tree Sparrow.

Now a scarce bird in Buckinghamshire so I feel very privileged

  Surprisingly not my first garden record, the last bird 3 or 4 years ago stayed for 18 months.                                                                                 

Friday, 19 November 2010

A pleasant lunchtime in the Brickhills

 With all the reports of large numbers of Redpolls including several Mealies being seen nearby in Bedfordshire, I spent my lunchtime at Bow Brickhill to see if I could locate any of my own.
It really was a nice place to be with the bright sunshine on the carpet of still colourful fallen leaves.
The birds were quite noisy and Nuthatch, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Chaffinches could be heard. Siskins were plentiful as they flew over and several could be seen feeding in Silver Birch  trees.
 Every now and then a Tit flock was encountered and these were scanned to find Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed, also a few Goldcrests and on one occasion a lone Lesser Redpoll.
 A large flock of small finches that flew over were suspected of being Redpolls, but they were silent so I couldn't be sure. I think I will have to come back when I have a bit more time.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Fourth Time Lucky

 I had planned to check out Gayhurst Quarry this morning, but woke to find quite a dense fog so a change of plan was required.
 I decided to have another try for the Bearded Tits at Walton. Today I was not pushed for time so planned to stick it out as long as it took to see them.
 Arriving at 7:30ish I planted myself at the end of the boardwalk and decided to make a list of all the birds seen while I waited.
Mallard and Moorhen flew off as I walked down and  Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tit,Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Robin and Starling were seen. Corvids were represented by Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie and Jay. Woodpigeons were plentiful and a constant stream of Lesser-black backed , Herring and Black-headed Gulls leaving their overnight roost at Willen passed over. 2 or 3 Water Rails squealed from deep cover and a Cormorant passed by. A flock of 5 Siskins became 12 and then finally 22, Thirty Goldfinches and a few Chaffinch were present.
 An hour had passed very quickly with no sight or sound of the 'quarry birds', so I was pleased when extra help arrived in the form of Kenny Kramer.
 Half an hour later we were delighted to finally hear the 'pinging' of a group of Bearded Tits not too far off into the reeds. It took us a while to actually see them, but it seemed  once I had it was as though they thought 'Oh well he's finally seen us we better put on a decent show' and for the next 15 minutes or so all 4 ( 2 male, 2 female) birds flew around the reeds, perched up in the nearby saplings and flew above the reedbed. At one point 3 of them flew off to the other side, but the remaining female called them back to us.
 A very welcome Bucks tick for me and a 'Lifer' for Kenny.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Another episode of the Waltons

I finally got back to Walton Lakes today to see if I could see the Bearded Tits that were still present and been seen by the world and his wife since Paul had found them last week.
 An early visit before work saw me disturbing a Water Rail from under the boardwalk and a Snipe from the front of the Platform, also a  flock of around a dozen Siskins from the top of the nearby Alders.
 I did hear the Beardies at one point but they never came out into the open.
This meant a return visit at lunchtime. Gen was already there and hadn't seen them and  in short time I was there there was no sight nor sound. Looks like I'll have to go back.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Dipping Out in Norfolk

Paul and I spent the day in Norfolk mainly missing out on everything we went for. An enjoyable day but extremely frustrating.

First stop was Welney where a routine stop would see us grab a lifer for Paul in the shape of the Glossy Ibis.
..Wrong! Arriving at first light there was no sign..this was to be the day it chose to have a lie-in. We stayed until 9 without seeing it and decided we had to move on.( the inevitable text came through that it appeared at 9:55)

Cley was next where there had been all sorts of good birds around all week including an American Golden Plover, which I was desperate to see. We started off at the beach hoping if someone else located the bird they would put out the news, meanwhile we could go and find some of the other goodies that might be around.
 There was an obvious passage of Kittiwakes going on, a very late Arctic Tern hung around the Coastguards, a Red-throated Diver was close in and a reasonable flock of Common Scoter was seen, but other than that the sea was quiet.

 Popping in to North Hide, the obvious highlight was not 1, not 2, but three Grey Phalaropes on the marsh. Other than that it was pretty standard fare, a large number of Pintail being notable.
Disappointingly no Snow or Lapland Buntings or Shore Larks were found.

                                                                                     Brent Geese at Cley

 With no word on the Plover we moved on to Holkham which the previous day had hosted  a flock of some 65 Lapland Buntings, surely we would find them !
 I can honestly say I've never Known Holkham so bird-dead and we didn't see anything worthy of note.

 The day was turning into a bit of a washout, so a trip to reliable old Titchwell was called for - surely that wouldn't let us down.
 A flock of Twite near the New Parrinder Hide was good and a flock of 11 Shore Lark on the beach was even better. A Yellow-legged Gull in the gathering Gull roost failed to raise the spirits and we set off for home feeling a day that had promised so much had failed to come up with the goods - I don't think I've ever felt that way about Norfolk, maybe familiarity is breeding contempt !

Friday, 5 November 2010

Elusive Beardies

I took a call from Paul this lunchtime who excitedly told me he'd just found one maybe two Bearded Tits at Walton Balancing Lakes.
 As this is a very rare bird in Bucks, I just had to go. It was starting to rain so I wouldn't have been able to work anyway.
 Arriving on site Paul said the bird had just disappeared into the vast reedbed, so it was just a question of waiting, looking and listening. I did a lap of the wetland before returning to the boardwalk and after about an hour there was the unmistakeable 'chink' of a Beardie right out in front followed the answering call of another off to the right. I could see the reeds moving but not any birds, then a movement through the foliage but nothing definite. They then drifted off again and despite a couple of odd calls that was it. Hopefully they will stick around so I get the chance to get a proper look.
 Great find by Paul.
Other birds seen on site were a couple of Shoveler, Coot, Moorhen, Water Rail and Reed Buntings.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A visit to Stockgrove Park

I had the opportunity to pop into Stockgrove Park today, just over the county boundary in Beds.

As usual someone had put some seed on the fenceposts and the regular Nuthatches, Great, Blue, Coal and Marsh Tits came down steal some.
                                            A rather scraggy looking Nuthatch

                                                Coal Tit

Jays were plentiful and there seemed to be several reasonable sized flocks of Siskins around.

 Down on the lake about 30 Mandarins were present hiding amongst the bankside Rhododendron bushes, along with an equal number of Mallards.
                                              Drake Mandarin

 I later took a look at Back Wood to see the large Finch flock that is feeding in the Game Strip there. These were increbibly mobile and it was difficult to scrutinise what was in there, but I would hazard a rough guess of 50 Greenfinch, 30 Chaffinch and 20 Bramblings.
Looking over the woods a Buzzard was soaring and better still a Peregrine zoomed over.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Making the Extra Hour Count.

All week I've been hearing people say 'Oh we put the clocks back this weekend. An extra hour in bed!'
 Well you can keep your extra snooze time. I was up and out at half five to make use of this extra time, heading to Welney to catch up with a Glossy Ibis that had been performing to anyone who cared to go and see it for the best part of a week.
 I timed my arrival  for my latest visit to 'Nelson's County' for first light, and parked up at the recommended site. Finding the field where the bird had been seen, there was no sign, but I figured it probably hadn't yet left it's roost so I stood around waiting for it to arrive.
 I could hear wild Swans on the WWT reserve and several groups of mainly Whoopers but with a few Bewicks flew low overhead as they headed off for their days grazing on the nearby fields.. A Marsh Harrier flew across and a Barn Owl hunted in a neighbouring meadow.
 By now more birders had arrived and all it needed was our bird to show, and indeed it did. At 7:25 exactly the unmistakeable shape of a big brown  bird with a long curved beak was seen to fly in from the west and land in it's chosen field. When I've seen these birds previously they always been quite elusive hiding in the long grass or reeds, but this one was just 50 yards away and out in the open, the light of the sun bringing out the colours on it's back.

 Having seen my target bird early I decided to take a look at the nearby Ouse Washes Reserve to see what was around.
 I noticed there had been reports of Curlew Sandpipers on the reserve, so I thought I would have another go for them. Unfortunately it was from the Stevens Hide, the furthest one, some 3 kilometers from the car park, but what the hell, nothing ventured.....
 The walk was fairly uneventful with small flocks of Reed Buntings, Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits on the track ahead. More Whoopers flew overhead and many Wigeon, Mallard and Teal on the pools of the yet unflooded Washes.
A massive flock of Lapwings and Golden Plovers numbered at least a couple of thousand, several Snipe and a couple of Bar-tailed Godwits were seen in flight.
 Having endured the long trek (stroll ?) to the very end hide, my efforts were unfortunately not to be rewarded - no Curlew Sands and not even one of the 75 Ruff that were reported to be there.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Goldies are here

 A trip to Gayhurst this lunchtime produced all the regular crew, with the exception of Little Egrets - I can't remember ever not seeing them here - and the Goose flock had gone off wandering.
 Thirty Golden Plovers were the first notable flock of the autumn. - I later bumped into Chris Coppock who said he'd just seen a flock of around 500 !!
 Lapwings were numerous also with around a hundred present.
10 Siskins were a nice surprise within a small flock of Goldfinches that were frequenting the Alders by Spinney Pit.
 Hides around the Fishing Pit have been rebuilt so I guess shooting will start any day now !

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Willen Washout

Rain again today, so a walk around Willen Lakes.
Not much on the South lake as lots of water sports were going on, so everything had moved up to the North end.
 Ducks were plentiful, especially Wigeon, but good numbers of Tufted, Pochard, Mallard and Teal. A Water Rail screamed in the reeds near the inlet,4 Little Grebe were in front of the hide, 4 Snipe were seen on the Spit and a Yellow-legged Gull paid a brief visit.
 To be honest it was another disappointing trip out, but you have to keep getting out there. I must be due something good soon !

Monday, 25 October 2010

Chris's Local

A spare couple of hours this afternoon, so as I was nearby, I took a look around Manor Farm.
It really was quiet unless you are really in to Magpies, Carrion Crows Woodpigeons and Black-headed Gulls - lots of these around.
 On the pools a small flock of Lapwings, contained a single Green Sandpiper and 2 Little Egrets were nearby. A single Cormorant and a few Common Gulls mingled with the Black-heads.
 Several Pied Wagtails lurked on the mud along with one Grey, but that really was about it - no ducks , Geese or Swans.
 To make things worse while I was there a Text came through saying Bob T had seen 3 Waxwings near the iron trunk bridge, just a couple of hundred yards away.... I didn't even see Bob T.!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sparrows on my patch and merry Lap dance

First light saw me at Gayhurst Quarry today.
Lots of birds around, but nothing much other than common stuff.
Duck numbers continue to increase, with Mallards, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal and Pochard all in abundance. Only 2 Little Egrets and 4 Little Grebe present this time and at least one Kingfisher.
Passing under the motorway bridge I  had an interesting sighting of a big Dog Fox. He was walking as bold as brass between the cattle, with them taking absolutely no notice of him at all - if that had been my dog they would have chased her around the field. I would have loved a photo of this, but unfortunately he saw me and was off.

 Quarryhall was a shade more interesting birdwise. I could hear Tree Sparrows, but they were difficult to pick out. I did eventually see some, but never more than 4 at any one time. I'm guessing there were probably around a dozen, as they were extremely vocal.
Yellowhammer numbers are building up with around 10 seen, also about 30 Linnets, 50 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipits, a few Goldfinch and Chaffinch, 2 - 300 Fieldfares and a couple of Buzzards.

 This afternoon I met up with Paul and Nik to try and see a Lapland Bunting that had been at Ivinghoe Beacon earlier in the day.
 It had been seen briefly amongst a flock of Skylarks in an emerging Oilseed Rape crop.
Having got there we soon realised how impossible this was going to be. - The field was huge - the Skylark flock was huge and ranged over a huge area, - and the birds disappeared as soon as they landed.
Needless to say we didn't find it, but we did see probably 50 Linnets, a couple of hundred Fieldfare and at least 3 Bramblings in the Whitebeam trees on the way down.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Lesser is definitely more

Heavy rain curtailed my afternoons work today, so I decided a twitch was in order.
 I undertook a trip to Port Meadow on the banks of the River Thames at Oxford.
Leaving Newport in heavy rain and hail, I was pleased that by the time I reached Bicester I was ahead of the rain clouds and the sun had come out.
 Arriving on site the flooded meadows were absolutely full of birds; over a hundred Wigeon, a few Teal and Shoveler, around 300 Golden Plover on the opposite bank and an enormous flock of Greylag Geese with 15 Feral Snow Geese mixed in amongst them. Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits fed around the edges of the flood.
 The bird I had come to see was found easily on my side of the river at about 30 yards range - a juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs. This handsome transatlantic wader showed extremely well all the time I was there along with it's close buddy a Ruff. These two seemed inseparable and were never more than 5 yards apart, if one flew,the other followed - the bright yellowlegs shining out like a beacon behind the American bird.
 After about an hour the rain finally reached me, so this was my cue to head home.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Norfolk again

Our latest RSPB trip was once again to North Norfolk.

Mainly chasing around and missing out on scarce vagrants, but there were some highlights.

 We started off at Warham Greens, where a Pallas's Warbler had been present for 3 or 4 days. Unfortunately after about an hour or so it became apparent the bird had moved on as no-one had seen it all morning.
 Cley was our next destination, and it was en-route to here that we noticed a group of Birders looking at the front of a house in Blakeney. We stopped to find they were watching a smart Black Redstart that was moving along the rooftops.
 At Cley itself, a seawatch produced  a couple of Red-throated Divers, some Common Scoter,3 Eiders, a couple of Gannets and lots of Brent Geese. A couple of Snow Buntings were near the Eye Pool and a ringtail Hen Harrier flew over
                                           Snow Bunting
My latest attempt to get Curlew Sandpiper on to my yearlist was thwarted as our walk down to Arnolds Marsh where one was reported to be present, was interrupted by a text from Ray saying there was a Red-breasted Flycatcher at Holkham - No Contest !
 Shortly after we were walking down the West Track to join the small crowd assembled arond an Ivy covered tree where the bird was hiding. It did prove to be very elusive, but eventually gave good if very brief views, but what a cracker it was.
 Other birds seen here includes lots of Coal Tits, Goldcrest, Chiffchaffs, many Jays, a Buzzard and a Marsh Harrier.
While we were here, news of an even bigger rareity came through - a Red-flanked Bluetail just down the road at Holme. So we were off again.
 Now to say this bird was elusive was an understatement. It had been showing on and off all afternoon, but in the hour an a half we were there up until dusk the only view I had one brief view of it flying quickly into a bush. If I hadn't been told that was the bird, I certainly wouldn't have guessed, so I will have to wait another day before I can add RFB to my life-list.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Jayhurst Quarry

Gayhurst had it's name changed today.  The big Oak down near the stables is heaving with acorns and it seemed every Jay for miles was there collecting and taking away their winter supplies - I was told recently that they can carry as many as seven at a time to go and hide somewhere or other.
 Down at the pits there were huge numbers of Geese ( Canadas and Greylags ), Ducks ( Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard and Tufted) and Swans ( all Mutes, but including the 2 Polish). Cormorants were up to 19 - the most I can remember here, Little Grebes up to 5, and 3 Little Egrets. I heard 2 or 3 Kingfishers, but only managed to spot one of them.

 Up at Quarryhall the Lapwing flock has increased to around 150 and there were also large flocks of Starlings and Woodpigeons. Chaffinch  and Reed Bunting numbers are on the increase.
Birds flying over included several Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and a single Buzzard.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Oh Yes it is...

Oh no it's (a) Knot.
I Popped over to Manor Farm at lunchtime to see if the Knot found by Chris G was still there.
It was and showing very well from up by the top path - just as well really as I didn't have time to go searching for it. Only my second ever in the county and well worth being late back to work for.
Also seen in a very brief visit were 2 Little Egrets, a Green Sandpiper, a few Lapwings and  a group of Black-headed Gulls.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

There's a Killer on the Loose

I started off at first light at Gayhurst Quarry today.
Duck numbers are definitely building up, with well over a hundred Wigeon, around 50 Shoveler, 30 Gadwall, a dozen Teal, 8 Pochard and just the one Tufted, along with the usual Mallards.
 Finally Drakey Wigeon has some friends, with half a dozen Wigeon on Fishing Lake.
Five Little Egrets, 4 Little Grebe, a Kingfisher and a dozen Lapwing were seen around the site.

I decided to follow the river around to where it passes under the motorway.
It was here that I noticed a dark shape on the opposite bank. I kept watching and this Mink appeared. As it seemed unconcerned by my presence, I watched it for around 5 minutes, before it disappeared into the vegetation. I even managed a few rubbish photos.


I then wandered up to Quarryhall, where a flock of around 300 Geese, 5/6ths of which were Greylags, the others being Canadas.
 A Grey Heron, a Little Egret, 40 Lapwings and 2 Golden Plovers, some Woodpigeons and Black-headed Gulls were also feeding in this field.
 Visible migration included a few Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, a couple of flocks of Linnets and 2 Siskins.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Furzton and Emberton

As I was working nearby I decided I would take at look at Furzton Lake this lunchtime as last years Yellow-legged Gull had returned. I even took some slices of bread with me to try and entice it near enough for a photo.
 Well he was there alright but it seems he was the only bird on the lake not interested in a chunk of Hovis Thick White. He stayed firmly in the centre of the lake while numerous Mallard, Canada Geese, Moorhen, Coot and Black-headed Gulls squabbled over the crumbs.

This Coot looks as though he has put the wrong shoes on.

 Juvenile Black-headed Gull.
I got a call later in the day from Simon saying that was a report of a Red-breasted Merganser at Emberton Country Park, so I thought I had better check it out. So after work I headed off down there.
No sign of any RBM but two juvenile Goosanders were present on the sailing lake, almost certainly 2 of the three that were raised on the nearby River Ouse.It was good to see them again and to know they were still O.K.                                                                                                                                                        
 Also seen was a pre-roost gathering of Pied Wagtails on the roof of the sailing club hut.I would estimate maybe 30 birds.                                                                                                                                         
 A bizarre moment occurred when one of th Pied Wags flew out towards the Goosanders and for one brief mille-second it actually landed on the back of one of thems head before realising it's mistake.                                                                                                                                                                    

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Calverton Hare

The Calverton Hare was present again today.

She seems to reappear about this time every year, presumably after raising her family.
I couldn't get any closer than this to her as she seems to know exactly how close she is prepared to let you get and then hops a couple of paces further away.

Willen and Calverton Today

 I stopped off briefly at Willen North on my way to work at Calverton Today.
The two juvenile Common Terns are still present - I wonder how long they will stay as all of their friends have long since departed to sunnier climes.
 Also 4 Snipe on the spit and quite a large influx of Wigeon since Friday. A Grey Wagtail hung around the dam area.
 At Calverton a few migrants went over during the day, including Skylarks, Pied Wagtails, 3 Mistle Thrushes and a couple of Buzzards.
 I ate my lunch close to the local Rookery and was surprised to see a good deal of the birds in courtship displays. This involved them (presumably the males) soaring around high over the nest site and then just tumbling down out of the sky as if they had lost complete control, only regaining their composure just above the tree tops. Quite spectacular and presumably why these birds are already in residence on their nests early in January.
Loking in at Stony Stratford Nature Reserve tonight, it once again lived up to it's reputation of 'Stony no birds' as a couple of Moorhens and a dozen Mallards were as good as it got.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Linford early doors

 Paul and I took an early morning visit to Linford Reserve this morning.
First bird seen was a surprising early Buzzard that was up before it even got light.
 Around the reserve roving Tit flocks included Great, Blue, Long-tailed and Marsh, also a few Chiffchaffs.
Nothing much doing from the hides, but a single Ruff on the bund was a definite highlight. Other birds present were a couple of Lapwings, quite a few Teal, a couple of Shoveler, a Kingfisher that flew low over the water and a distant calling Cetti's Warbler.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Like a Pigeon with a sore head

This young Woodpigeon was photographed while recovering from flying into a glass window. After about twenty minutes he felt fit enough to fly into a nearby tree. Luckily he did as the local Sparrowhawk shot through just minutes later.

Friday, 1 October 2010

A walk around Willen in the wet

I did a complete circuit of the two lakes at Willen this morning.
Duck numbers are building up with good numbers of Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted and Pochard. New in were 3 female type Red-crested Pochard on south lake along with the long stayer at north lake.Lots of Great-crested Grebe were present, including a family with four still quite small young.
 Around a hundred House Martins linger over 'The Wayfarer' as well as two juvenile Common Terns on north lake.
 The north lake is now home to a few hundred Coot and a Little Egret patrolled the edge of the island.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Back at Gayhurst

Today's predicted rain finally arrived mid-afternoon, so as I had been neglecting my patch lately I spent a couple of hours at Gayhurst Quarry.
 Nothing much had changed, the regulars - Drakey Wigeon (who seems content to stay on Fishing Pit even though others of his kind are now frequenting Motorway Pit), the 2 Polish Swans and Humbug - the surviving stripey headed young Great-crested Grebe, were all present.
 Ducks were seen in the form of around 30 Teal, a dozen Gadwall, 20 Wigeon, a couple of Pochard, a single Tufted and the 300 or so young cannon fodder Mallards.
 While I stood near the feeding point these Mallards were quite content to gather around my feet, along with a brave Wigeon that has cottoned on to the free food. It seems quite peverse how trusting these birds are, when in a few weeks people will be blasting them out of the sky - if they can get them to fly in the first place !
I'm not against hunting, but this isn't sport is it ? shooting tame birds.
 Other birds of note were 2 Little Egrets, the first Common Gull of the winter, a Grey Wagtail, a Jay and a flock of around a hundred House Martins, along with a few Swallows.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

To the Hills

With a strong North-easterly blowing  the day before Paul and I decided to get up to Steps Hill to see what  was happening on the migration front. We met up with Steps regular Mike Wallen at 6:15 before it got light to be in position for sunrise.
 On route I had seen a Fox near Newport and the pair of us spied a hunting Barn Owl on the side of the Leighton by-pass.
 Viz-mig was very quiet with small numbers of Meadow Pipits and Hirundines going over, but 7 Redwings were our first of the autumn.
7 Buzzards were possibly migrants and 3 Red Kites and 2 Ravens were also seen.
 Walking back to the car-park a Little Owl sat in one of the berry-laden Hawthorn bushes - this place should be heaving with Thrushes in the next couple of weeks, when hopefully we will return.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Wendover Wryneck

I'm extremely busy with work at the moment, so when a very showy Wryneck turned up at Bacombe Hill near Wendover this week I had desperately been trying to find a window to get out and see it.
As I left the house this morning it started pouring down with rain,so that was enough for me to give up on work and decide to go for it.
Arriving at the site I met up with Dunstable birder Francis Buckle who had also been unable to get there before today.
Things didn't look good when we met 2 birders leaving the site, saying they had been there quite some time and there was no sign. Meanwhile the rain continued and the wind was blowing cold and strong.
Some 40 minutes passed and it was starting to look like the bird had moved on, until Francis shouted out he had seen it fly into a tree. We looked for a couple of minutes until it flew down onto the ground a little way away. It was surprising then how long it took us to actually find the bird even knowing where it had landed, but when we did what a fantastic bird it was. Views were had down to less than 10 yards and we watched it feeding out in the open for at least half an hour before another heavy shower arrived and we beat a retreat.
I have put my photos on this post, as its not often you manage to photograph a Wryneck ( you'll obviously have to click on them twice to get a decent view ), but Francis has sent me some of his much better photos and as soon as I sort them out I'll put them on here.

As I still had some time before starting work in the afternoon -it had cleared up by now - I called in at Willen.
The North Lake held a reasonable amount of ducks with Mallard, Tufted Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon and Teal present but nothing else of much note.
I then took a walk around to the South Lake where lots of Swallows and House Maartins were feeding over the water. It was while looking at these that I noticed 4 slightly larger birds higher up. ... Black Terns. I watched them while they flew around for a bit, but obviously decided they weren't going to stay and drifted off South-West.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Rat !

I've not had many opportunities to get any decent bird photos recently, so I thought I'd post these of this chap who was scampering around the garden I was working in today.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Return to Norfolk

Our latest RSPB Group trip took us back to North Norfolk.
Starting off at Cley our first bird was a Marsh Harrier close to the visitor centre. It was then off down the East Bank, where a couple of  hundred Black-tailed Godwits were feeding in the meadows, along with a few Ruff and probably 50 or so Egyptian Geese. Continuing down towards the sea we encountered Bearded Tits, Cetti's Warbler, Redshanks, an Avocet, various Ducks and 3 Pinkfeet.
 We then spent the next half hour on the beach doing a bit of a seawatch where we saw 2 Gannets, 2 Arctic Skuas, and a Common Seal but not too much else.
 There had been reports of up to 24 Lapland Buntings in the area recently, but we had to be content with just the one, that afforded very close views as it skulked in the rough vegetation on the shingle ridge - a very smart bird !
 A Little Stint was the best bird seen from the North Hide amongst many Dunlin and good numbers of Teal.
Another quick seawatch from 'The Coastguards' produced another Arctic Skua and 3 Common Scoter on the water.
 The Hooded Crow was still present in the Eye Field although I personally didn't see it.

The afternoon saw us at Thornham Harbour, where we took a walk up to Holme Observatory.
En-route we had seen several hundred newly arrived Pinkfooted Geese in the roadside fields - winter is definitely coming !.
The creeks around Thornham held good numbers of Waders with Redshanks, Knot, Turnstones, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers and a single Spoonbill. Again there were large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits out on the Marshes.
 Up at 'The Obs' we spent an hour or so staking out the area around the Dell Hide, but were unable to locate the Barred Warbler that had been seen just an hour or so earlier.
 On the walk back 2 Yellow Wagtails, a Kingfisher and asmall flock of Linnets  were seen. Also an odd looking Wagtail that was in every sense a Pied Wagtail, but seemed to have a Yellow tinge to its face - but definitely not a Citrine !

Friday, 17 September 2010

Gayhurst and Quarryhall

 A lunchtime wander was not too productive.
Again Fishing Pit was very quiet, I think mainly due to a guy fishing on the south shore ( It's called fishing pit, so why should I be surprised when there's someone fishing on it ?! ) Drakey Wigeon was still there looking very at home sitting on the old Grebe's nest.
 Spinney Pit had  Little Egret and Grebe, a couple of Shoveler and 5 Teal, the 5 young swans but unfortunately only one Great crested Grebe youngster.
 Two more Little Egrets were on Reedy Pit.
I met up with Gen at Motorway Pit and we scanned through the masses of Mute Swans, Greylags, Canadas, Mallards and Lapwings to find a few Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler and the young Polish Swan.
 Two Buzzards flew over and a couple of Kingfishers were heard but not seen.

 We then walked up to Quarryhall  where the ' highlights' were a Kestrel, a Red-legged Partridge and a Pheasant.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Attenborough Afternoon

A walk around Nottinghamshire's Attenborough Nature Reserve this afternoon.
Wildfowl were the main attraction, with winter birds starting to arrive. This Mute Swan was getting quite aggressive.

The origins of this Shelduck are quite dubious as it clearly loves to feed on the grain on offer near the visitor centre.

Seven Red-crested Pochards were on Church Pond including this rather attractive leucistic individual.

These two young House Sparrows were very confiding, as most of them are around the reserve.