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.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Autumn Ducks in.

 I can't believe I haven't been down to Gayhurst Quarry for over a fortnight. So late afternoon I thought I ought to check out what had been happening.
 Fishermans Pit was practically empty with just a couple of Great-crested Grebes and Drakey Wigeon.
On Spinney Pit the Swan family is intact, but the Great-cresteds seem to be down to two fast growing youngsters.
 Wildfowl were the noticeable arrivals to the site with over 350 Greylags in the field below the pits. A quick scan through revealed about 20 Canadas and a single Egyptian.
 Motorway Pit was heaving with ducks and other than the 300 or so introduced Mallards, an impressive flock of around 70 Gadwall were new in as well as 30 odd Wigeon, 5 Teal and 2 Shoveler.
 72 Mute Swans were on this pit, although the Swan family seem to have disappeared with the exception of the Polish youngster,although she seems O.K.
 A hundred or so Lapwings were scattered around the site as well as 6 Little Egrets.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

North Norfolk Coast

With the intention of catching up with a few autumn migrants and hoping to add to Pauls mammal list we headed off to North Norfolk.
First stop was Cley where we met fellow Bucks birders Mike and Rose.
A bit of seawatching showed lots of Gannets and good numbers of Arctic Skuas harrassing the Sarnie Terns. Paul was in heaven when a Harbour Purpoise surfaced twice really close in, just yards from a bloke swimming in the sea - and he didn't even notice ! Then a Grey Seal bobbed about a little further along.
We had heard there was a Hooded Crow in the area and this was found in the Eye Field with not too much difficulty. This was an English first for us.
The North Scrape was packed full of waders, mainly Dunlin, but with a smattering of other species including, Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff, Lapwings, Ruff, Avocets, a Green Sandpiper, a Wood Sandpiper, a Golden Plover and 2 Little Stints. Again I missed out on Curlew Sandpipers as there were supposedly 10 present, but we couldn't find them.
A close encounter with a couple of Weasels was great , as Paul 'squeaked' at them and they kept popping up their heads out of the long grass to try and find out what it was.

A report of Lapland Buntings had us nipping down the road to Salthouse, but unfortunately despite there being lots of birders around these weren't located.
Lots of Wheatears were in the Dunes and while looking at one sat on a post it suddenly crouched down and froze. Looking around a Merlin shot across the Marsh, before disappearing.
Then an unexpected close encounter with an Arctic Skua that was sat on the saltmarsh. It was presumed that it was unwell, but when photographers predictably tried to get too close, it was up and away.

Barred Warbler was one of the birds we were hoping to see, so when news of one seen near Stiffkey campsite, we had to go.
 We gave it a while,but as time was limited we left without any sign. Other birders had been there some time without any luck either.
 A Whinchat and several Whitethroats were our only reward.

 Next it was on to Holme Dunes where there had also been a Barred Warbler the day before.
Walking through the scrub, lots of Wheatears were in evidence. We eventually reached an area where a group of birders were watching a juvenile Red-backed shrike. Amongst these was 'Man of Holme' Ray Roche and we spent a couple of hours with him just watching and waiting.
 Again no Barred Warbler, but two Peregrines that flew low overhead, Whinchat, Whitethroats, Yellow Wagtail, Garden Warblers, more Wheatears, a Spotted Flycatcher and a very smart Pied Flycatcher.
 A quick look on the beach only resulted in 4 Sanderling and a few Sandwich Terns.

 We then decided to take a look at Redwell Marsh, to see the Red-necked Phalarope that had been around for a few days.
 A lovely bird, but we did feel a bit grieved to pay £3 when that was the only bird on the water. Think it's been bit of a money spinner for them. Are you sure it's not tied down. Only kidding Jed.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A Mixed Bag

Today started well,as on the morning dogwalk, I spotted a female Redstart in the hedgerow a few hundred yards from home.

This afternoon, this Brimstone showed how effective it's camouflage can be. This monster moth I think is a Red Underwing

After work I popped down to Ravenstone Sewage Works. Lots of Warblers around especially Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. I've been practising my 'pishing' technique lately, and it seemed to work tonight with as many as 5 inquisitive phylloscops coming to check me out.
Willow Warbler
There were 2 Grey Wagtails at the works, along with 4 Linnets and a couple of Stock Doves.
Walking back up the track I found a juvenile Wheatear that I must have walked past on the way down. I took a record shot of it - you'll need to click on the picture to see it.