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.