Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Panto Villain returns.

As the garden flock of House Sparrows now numbers about 40 birds it was inevitable this chap would catch on and pay us a visit.A Sparrowhawk, like the panto villain we love to hate him, yet you can't help but admire him.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

A Kentish in Rutland

The exceptionally rare occurence of a British inland Kentish Plover had Mr M and I nipping up to Eyebrook Reservoir tonight.
The little cutie juvenile bird showed very well at the inlet end, loosely associating with around 10 Ringed Plover.
I have seen many Kentish Plovers abroad but this was a British first for me. Somehow amongst the Eyebrook mud this bird was far more impressive than the ones that scurry along the sand and shingle of some foreign beach.
An added bonus was a Pectoral Sandpiper that fed amongst the small flock of Dunlin. Apparently we had missed out on 5 Curlew Sandpipers that had been there slightly earlier, but Hey who's complaining !
Around a dozen Snipe probed the waters edge and a large flock of Lapwings were present.
Just before dark a flock of 10 or so Yellow Wagtails flew over, surprisingly North.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Red-backed Beauty

A trip out to Biggleswade this afternoon, as a Red-backed Shrike had turned up on the Common, and as I had only seen 2 others before it sounded too good to miss.
I parked at The Lodge and walked across the fields to where I could see a lot of cars parked up. I had obviously parked in the wrong place, but whatever it was only a mile or so.
Just as I arrived at the car parking place Malcolm and Carolyn turned up, so we walked down together.
The bird was showing extremely well, down to about 30yards and at one point flew just over our heads to another part of the hedge. It was an adult female and in superb condition. We watched it catch and eat moths and grasshoppers and at one point it was seen to remove a grasshopper from it's beak with it's claws before coughing up a pellet and then consuming it's prey.
Malcolm and Carolyn were kind enough to let me use one of their photos. Other photos and a short video can be seen on http://malcolmhawkes.blogspot.com/

On the way home I stopped to scan through a 200 strong Gull flock near to the Kempston bypass. This consisted of mainly Lesser-black-backs, but also a few Black-heads, a couple of Herrings and 9 Yellow-legged.

Early Saturday

 Paul and I did another early one today.
       Started off at Manor Farm, firstly to see what was about and secondly to see how the landscaping of the site was coming on.
 I have to say that the place is looking very, erm... nice. A very good site, but I feel it's going to turn into just another pretty Milton Keynes Park and be practically useless for most decent birds.
 Having said that we did have a few goodies today amongst the very few birds that were there.
Three Yellow Wagtails dropped out of the sky to forage around the feet of the cattle. Waders seen were a Green Sandpiper, a flyover Snipe a few Lapwings and what was most certainly a Greenshank that disappeared behind the island before we could get anything on it.
 Best sightings were however a couple of Redstarts that sat on the barbed wire before flying off into the bushes and out of sight. (Chris G did find and photograph one of them later on in the day. See http://manorfarmbirding.blogspot.com/)

       We then stopped briefly at Stony no birds, - sorry, Stony Stratford Nature Reserve, where there was one Green Sandpiper that suddenly became 4 Green Sandpipers- wow!

        As of last week we moved on to Foxcote Reservoir, where Greenshanks had increased to 4, Green Sandpipers 6 and Common Sandpipers 5, Lapwings to a couple of hundred and the Little-ringed Plover was still present.
 Duck highlights were a juvenile Garganey in the small Teal and Shoveler flock and a 'you aint seen me right' Duck.
 Two Hobbies over the reservoir caused panic amongst the Lapwings briefly.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Yet another wet afternoon..

And when I say wet, it was very wet. So that meant I had to check out Gayhurst Quarry.
Not really a lot to show for getting soaked though. Two Common Sandpipers were the only waders on Fishing Pit. It's funny how the only waders that Common Sands don't seem to get on with are.. Common Sands, as these two were having a right old set too. A flock of Gulls  on here included Black-headed and both types of Lesser-black backs.
 Motorway Pit was better, with the first two Snipe of the autumn, 4 Little Grebe, 2 Little Egret, Kingfisher and 31 Lapwing.
 I'm pleased to report the young Swans and Great-crested Grebes  are still  doing well.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Well Wood you believe it

Waking up to heavy rain, it was obvious I wouldn't get any work done today. So I scoured the local groups to see if there was anything worth going to see, that wasn't too far away.
 Pitsford Reservoir sounded a good option as a Wood Sandpiper had been present for the last couple of days and there was a good supporting cast of decent birds.
 As I had all day I decided to walk around the whole of the North side.
 Probably the most numerous bird on the ressie was Coot, with literally thousands of them, followed by Mallard, Gadwall and Great-crested Grebe. Lesser numbers were of Teal, Shoveler, Cormorant and Gulls, including one Yellow-legged.
 Lots of small birds were seen and heard in the surrounding woodlands, including Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Goldcrests, Tits and Finches.
 Scaldwell Bay was the most productive place on site for waders, with 3 Black-tailed Godwits, a Ruff, around 8 Green Sandpipers and about 200 Lapwings, but frustratingly no sign of the Wood Sandpiper.
Three Common Sandpipers and four Greenshanks were seen on other parts of the reserve.
 Also in the bay one female type Red-crested Pochard, 1 possibly 2 Black-necked Grebes and one of those ducks we don't mention.
 The area around the the Maytrees Hide feeding station was full of small birds, with 30 or 40 Tree Sparrows and various finches in the bushes, and a Whinchat feeding from the tall sedges.

 I was just making my way back to the car when Paul texted me to say he'd found incredibly a Wood Sandpiper at Linford Reserve.
 After cursing I made my way back to North Bucks.
But on arriving at Near hide, I was met by Nik and another birder, to be told no Wood Sandpiper here mate, but we have found a Ruff.
 O.K. the Ruff was nice as it wandered in and out of the long grass with it's Common Sandpiper friend, but it was the Wood Sandpiper I wanted to see.
 Maybe another day !

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Foxcote and The Hills

Chalkhill Blue.

Paul and I took an early morning trip to Foxcote Reservoir and Steps Hill today.
Foxcote is very low at the moment, with lots of exposed mud and looking perfect for wading birds.
Two Greenshank prowled the perimeter along with 5 Green Sandpipers, one Common Sandpiper and a Little-ringed Plover. Ducks present were Mallards, half a dozen Shoveler, a few Teal, several Tufties and about 15 Pochard. A group of 9 Little Grebe was notable.
Moving across the county to Steps Hill, we were hoping to find a few migrants, which we did but only Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, no Redstarts, Flycatchers or anything better.
One Red Kite and a couple of Buzzards were seen in the distance.
The lack of birds was made up for though by my first ever Chalkhill Blue Butterfly, along with a few Small Heaths.

Friday Wanderings

A wander around the Gayhurst complex at lunchtime didn't produce very much that was new in, other than a huge increase in the Greylag and Canada Goose flock and a whole lot more released young Mallard.
 The single Common Sandpiper was still on Fishing Pit, along with the Little-ringed Plover that had suddenly reappeared and of course Drakey Wigeon.
 Five Little Egrets were on site and the two juvenile Little Grebe survive. The two broods of Swan are doing well with the the Polish individuals looking particularly smart. Lots of  Lapwing were on Motorway and still 3 or 4 pairs of Common Terns are still tending their young.
 The Great-crested Grebe that seems to have been sitting on a nest on the island for ever, surprised me today by turning up on Spinney Pit with three tiny youngsters. The dad made us laugh though by trying to present them with a fish that was as big as they were.

 Late afternoon, a belated report of a Slavonian Grebe  at Linford Reserve the day before came through. Unlikely as it sounded at this time of year, I had to check it out.
 Not surprisingly no such bird was found, but two juvenile Little Grebes could have been the subject of  a misidentification. The only other bird of note was a Common Sandpiper on the bund.

 While at Linford Paul texted me to say Rob H. had found three Black Terns at Willen, so being as I hadn't seen any this year, I made my way over.
 Sure enough three juveniles were zooming around the whole of the south lake, and I enjoyed great views of these,while keeping one eye open for the parking warden. 

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Stopping for a Chat (or two)

Acting on a whim I stopped the car while driving along the Gayhurst to Weston Underwood Road and decided to do a quick scan along the hedgeline and wheatfields either side.
 I noticed a small bird about a hundred yards away sitting up on top of the corn. My immediate thought was it's a Chat of some sort. I had to get nearer to be certain, so I edged my way up the side of the hedge.
As I made my way up, birds were coming out of the hedge everywhere, these were Linnets, Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers in the main.
 As I got closer to my target bird, I saw another bird flycatching from the top of the hedge - this was a Chat - a juvenile Stonechat- not the one I was expecting.
 Luckily when I was nearer the bird I had originally seen was  a beautiful female Whinchat, my hunch being correct.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Swallow Rescue

Working back at Calverton today, I noticed that one of the Swallow broods had just fledged. They were flying around, but still returning to the barn to rest and be fed by the parents.
Half way through the morning I noticed one of the four youngsters sitting on the ground, seemingly unable to fly. I ignored it for a while as the parents carried on feeding it.

Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I picked it up. It was a feisty little devil and believe it or not tried to peck me. I discovered that it had got caught in some spider webbing and this had tangled it's wing feathers in with it's tail feathers and other than that there was nothing wrong with it. On removing this, I released it and immediately it flew away.
Later I saw all 4 birds flying around with their parents, and these photos are of all the youngsters back in the barn later.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

A Ruff Day

I decided to do things a bit different today and walk the Lathbury Loop. This involves starting off at Lathbury and walking across the fields via Quarryhall Farm, Gayhurst Quarry, Bury Field, Newport Pagnell and back to Lathbury.
 Best spots around the fields were a Hobby, a family party of Buzzards and a couple of Yellow Wagtails.
Arriving first at Motorway Pit at Gayhurst Quarry, it was clear that the shooting fraternity had been around since my last visit, as well over a hundred juvenile Mallards had been released. I couldn't help but feel the local foxes were in for a treat over the next few days as these new birds were just wandering around in large groups very reluctant to enter the water.
 However there were some new ducks that had arrived of their own persuasion, six Teal and 3 Shoveler.
My fears for the young Dabchicks were unfounded as two parents and two youngsters were once again seen.
 Working around to Fishing Pit, I immediately noticed a medium sized wader  working it's way around the shore in the company of a Common Sandpiper. This was a juvenile Ruff and the first I've seen on site for seven years.
 Nothing much was seen over Bury field and the regular little Egret fishing by the weir at Newport was the most notable sighting on the way back.

 Tonight Paul and I took a trip to Harrold and Odell Country Park in Bedfordshire to try and see a couple of Black-necked Grebes that had been spotted earlier in the day.
 We found these almost straight away fishing just off the island on the main lake. Four Egyptian Geese swam across the lake and two Green Sandpipers flew around calling constantly.
 Walkng around to the hide another wader was seen flying around the lake and when it eventually landed on the island it turned out to another juvenile Ruff !

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Willen in the Wet

A walk around Willen North Lake this afternoon, didn't show up the hoped for influx of waders that might have been brought down by the torrential rain. In fact the only wader I saw on the whole lake was a Green Sandpiper that sat on the spit.
Birds that might have come down in the deluge though were a group of 3 Spotted Flycatchers in the hedge near to the bridge between the two lakes. They were mixing with 2 young Cettis Warblers that were possibly reared on site.
On the lake itself 2 Little Egrets patrolled the edge of the island, 2 Little Grebes, a lone Teal, a pair of Gadwall and a handful of Tufties mingled amongst the vast numbers of Coots and a few Mallards. Several Common Terns were present and Black-headed Gull numbers are building up.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Another wet afternoon..

 So another trip to Gayhurst Quarry.
All of Tuesday's Sandpipers had gone, with just the juvenile Little Ringed Plover lingering on Fishing Pit.
Geese have arrived in numbers, with over a hundred Greylags and about 50 Canadas.
 On Reedy Pit one of the young Little Grebes seems to have disappeared and just one Little Egret was there today.
 Motorway Pit is collecting birds with large numbers of Lapwings, Coots, Black-headed Gulls and Mallards. There were a pair of Gadwall, still around a dozen Common Terns and a Kingfisher on the stream.
 A lone Swift flew over and a flock of around 50 Swallows buzzed around the local cow herd.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

My New Best Friend

This young Blackbird kept me company this morning.
He followed me around, often only a foot or two from my side, every now and then gobbling up a spider or other insect that I had disturbed.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Gayhurst Quarry

A trip down to GQ in the rain this afternoon.
Not so many small birds on show, but a Marsh Tit on the feeders of the last garden on the walk down was the first here for a while.
 Fishing Pit is looking spot on for waders at the moment and 2 Common Sandpipers, 2 Green Sandpipers and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover seemed to support this. The drake Wigeon was still present as well as 6 Cormorants and about the same amount of Great-crested Grebes. 2 Pochard appeared briefly but flew off.
 Spinney Pit held 2 Little Egrets, half a dozen Tufted Ducks and the Mute Swan family of 7.
 On Reedy Pit an adult Little Grebe suddenly has 2 stripey youngsters, I must have missed these on my last couple of visits.
 The level on Motorway Pit has gone right down and exposed lots of small islands. These were covered in Lapwings, Black-headed Gulls and still a few Common Terns. There was an eclipse drake Gadwall and 2 more Little Egrets. Sadly I noticed one of the smaller, swan brood has disappeared, but it is not the Polish one.

 A walk up to Quarryhall was not that productive, other than a few Skylarks, a pair of Linnets and a couple of Tree Sparrows.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Moulsoe meander.

An early morning walk around the fields between Moulsoe and Broughton Grounds today in the hope of finding a Whinchat or other autumn migrant.
 This wasn't to be, but lots of other small birds around. Whitethroats were plentiful and seemed to be everywhere. Lots of Linnets, Goldfinches, Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings and assorted Tits. Several Stock Doves , a couple of Buzzards, a Yellow Wagtail and a Green Woodpecker were good finds.
 However todays 'best bird' was once again a mammal - 3 Roe Deer that wandered out of the hedge on the side of a Wheat field. It looked like 2 females and a youngster, as one of the adults kept licking the sides of the smaller individual. I enjoyed views of these animals for about a minute before they just slunk off into the corn.

 Having arrived home I had just got out of the car, when I heard the un-mistakeable cronking call of a Raven. Looking up, sure enough there were two birds having a bit of a tussle with the local Buzzards. A Kestrel also joined in on the fun.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Lunchtime at Gayhurst

A lunchtime visit to Gayhurst Quarry today.
As with most other places there was very little around.
The drake Wigeon was still on Fishing Pit as well a couple of Common Sandpipers.
On Spinney Pit the larger of the two Swan broods was still present with the leucistic 'Polish Swan' looking even more striking alongside it's greyer siblings. Motorway Pit had 5 Little Egrets scattered around, along with another Common Sandpiper on the western shore. A single Kingfisher, a juvenile Teal and half a dozen Common Terns remained along with 3 or 4 youngsters.
Up at Quarryhall, just one Yellow Wagtail, several Skylarks, a pair of Linnets and a couple of Stock Doves were present.

At work this afternoon, this inquisitive young Magpie seemed to be behind me everytime I looked around. Shame I'd already eaten my sandwiches.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Blackwits at Willen

A quick look at Willen North Lake before work today.
Three Little Egrets were on the island, two of which were in the trees.Lots of Lapwings were on the spit and amongst these were a couple of Oystercatchers and more surprisingly two Black-tailed Godwits.
 There were still several Common Terns around including a couple of pairs with young on one of the rafts.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Attenborough today.

A pleasant but unspectacular walk around Attenborough nature reserve in Notts this afternoon.
Best sighting was a Weasel that ran along a wall just feet away and kept popping it's head out to look at me.
 Lots of common birds around including Bullfinch, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Tree Sparrow.
On the Clifton Pond 3 Little Egrets, Kingfisher and a smart Yellow-legged Gull were seen and over on the Wet Marsh a single Green Sandpiper.