Saturday, 31 December 2011

Double Mega Day

I was in full twitching mode yesterday. 2011 has not been one of my better birding years. I seem to have put in a lot of effort for not too much reward.
 Admittedly there have been some real highs including our holiday to Mallorca and the 4 day trip to Northumberland and the Farne Islands. Obviously there have been quite a few good days and some good birds seen.
 But this year seems to have been hard going - not just for me, but in general speaking to other local birders, they too have struggled.

So as I always try to do at this time of year, I planned a day out to try and give my final year tally a boost.
 Norfolk seemed a good bet as there seemed an abundance of decent birds around.
So an early start saw me arrive at RSPB Buckenham Marshes, where the regular wintering flock of Taiga Bean Geese had recently arrived. and these could be seen albeit rather distantly grazing on the meadows. More interesting though was the adult LESSER WHITEFRONTED GOOSE that was loitering in their midst. Often these birds are considered to be escapes, but this is the second winter on the trot that this endearing small goose has appeared with the Bean Geese, so as far as I'm concerned as sure as you can be of a genuine wild bird.
 Other birds around the site included a large flock of Golden Plover, Lapwings, Curlews, Ruff, Redshanks and Snipe in the wader department. A Marsh Harrier flew over and large flocks of Wigeon allowed reasonably close approach.

Wigeon
Next it was a trip up to the North Coast and Cley Marshes in particular.
After paying my £5 (gone up again I see ! - Birding used to be such a cheap pastime - not any more !!) I found out the bird I had come to see was not even on the reserve. It had moved onto Arnolds Marsh.
So a quick trek up the East Bank to join up with the crowd already there had me watching a juvenile WESTERN SANDPIPER wandering around with the local Dunlins. Now this really is a rare bird in Britain, something like only the 7th ever record.
 Other birds out on the marsh included Curlews, Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers Ruff, Shelducks and a large flock of Linnets.
 A brief seawatch produced little other than a lone Red-throated Diver on the sea with a couple of others flying past. A surprise to me was a large flock of Teal just off-shore- never seen them on anything other than freshwater. A Common Seal bobbed about just off the beach.
 Back at the visitor centre hundreds of Brent Geese covered nearby fields including a few right by the roadside.



I decided to stop off next at Wells-next-the-Sea and have some Fish and Chips while trying to find the reported Red-necked Grebe in the harbour.
 This didn't work out as the Grebe was nowhere to be seen, just a lone Great-crested and 4 Little Grebe amongst the numerous Gulls who ended up having most of my lunch, as to be honest, considering the fish was landed on the otherside of the road to the chipshop, it was some of the worst I've ever had.
 Holkham was my next destination (more money to park!), where I took a walk down to the dunes in search of some recent Shorelarks. The weather then turned against me and it became dark very quickly, so needless to say I didn't find the Larks. Some consolation though was the 50 or so Snow Buntings, which were probably the ones I had seen here a month or so ago.

 All in all my day out probably reflected my birding year with some real highs mixed in with a few disappointments.

 Lets hope for better in 2012.
Happy new year to any one who takes the time to drop by.




Thursday, 29 December 2011

A visit to see the 'White Nun'

I haven't had much chance to get out lately, but this afternoon I managed a visit to Caldecotte Lake.
A male Smew had been present on the South Lake for three days and as I hadn't seen one in the county for a while, I decided it was too good to miss.
 Sure enough exactly where everyone said it was, this delicate little duck showed very well, even if it was too far away to photograph.
 One bird that did stray almost close enough  though was this female Goosander.


 The Great Northern Diver is still around but he also kept to the middle of the lake.
  
Duck numbers were  fairly low with just a few Mallards and Tufteds and three Gadwall. Great-crested Grebes were widespread and 3 Little Grebes loitered at the southern end.
 The supporting cast comprised of Coots, Moorhens, Cormorants, Mute Swans and Canada Geese.
A quite sizeable Gull roost was starting to build up, but I failed to find anything out of the ordinary amongst the Black-heads, Commons, Herring, Greater and Lesser -black backs.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Still no Snow in Bucks.

With a very wet day forecast, I decided to make opt out of work today and make a return trip up to Startops Reservoir as last weeks Snow Bunting was still around and on occasion had even ventured into the Buckinghamshire section.
 It was still fine if overcast when I got there and whatsmore there were a handful of birders on the shore  obviously looking at something.
 Sure enough it was the very handsome first winter male Snow Bunting pecking around on the exposed shoreline. There was only one problem it was about 50 yards into Hertfordshire. Oh Well I could wait, surely it would wander my way.
 Over the course of the next couple of hours this lovely little bird teased by moving up and down the waters edge, but never getting closer than ten yards from the county line.
 With the rain gathering in intensity a chap and his two young children then decided to take a wander along the shore unfortunately spooking the Bunting further into Herts.
 I had to admit defeat once again and wait for my first Bucks Snow Bunting. It's not that important as it was a very nice bird to see all the same.





Monday, 12 December 2011

Tring Ressies

There is a theory amongst Buckinghamshire birders that a force field exists around the county that prevents most decent birds from entering the county.
 I took a trip up to the Tring Reservoirs today and have to say that I can only add to this presumption.
All of the reservoirs are yards inside the Hertfordshire border with the exception of Startops, where the Bucks/Herts boundary actually bisects the water body.
 First good bird I encountered was a Water Pipit on the spit on Wilstone, then a juvenile Brent Goose in the field behind. The lagoon in the south west corner held the wintering family of 2 adult and 2 juvenile Bewicks Swans. All 3 species within a couple of hundred yards of Bucks and the first 2 I have yet to see within my adopted county.
 An entry in the hide logbook informed of a Snow Bunting back at Startops - it couldn't be in the Bucks section could it ?!!
 Of course not ! Apparently it had been in the Herts section and although it had been reported as down to 40 metres from Bucks the 'field' had kept it out.
 I didn't actually see this bird anyway, but a pair of Red-crested Pochard were nice (both in Herts) and around 80 Corn Buntings coming into roost in the reedbed on Marsworth were brilliant  and whats more they were Buckinghamshire birds. A single Shelduck and a couple of hundred Golden Plover back on Wilstone made up the best of the rest.

Monday, 5 December 2011

One of our Blackbirds is Missing !

A close encounter with this female Sparrowhawk at work today.
She seemed more concerned that I was after her dinner, an unfortunate male Blackbird, than flying off and I was able to approach to within five yards.



Monday, 28 November 2011

Hoping for Snow

Well no not really. Not the cold stuff anyway !
With news coming in of another Snow Bunting in the county today, this time at Broughton near M.K. centre, I felt it warranted a bit of my time.
 The bird was seen flying around with a flock of Linnets on the site of a forthcoming housing development. That should be easy enough I thought, find the Linnets and you'll find the Snow Bunting.
 As my luck is going lately that was never going to happen. The site was huge - a wasteland of fairly long weedy plants that were covered in seed heads -perfect for small finches.
 Well I found a Linnet flock of about a hundred birds flying around - nothing white stood out amongst them, - but then looking around there was another flock and then another, they were everywhere ! I'm guessing at 300 but there were probably more. There was also a group of around 60 Goldfinches, several Reed Buntings, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails were mixed in but no sign of the little white waif.
 Wandering around the site I managed to flush a total of 35 Grey Partridge in coveys of 17, 11 and 7, by far the most I've seen in the county in many years, also a couple of Snipe and numerous Pheasants. Raptors included a couple of Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

In search of Geese

Our latest RSPB trip was trip to Norfolk with the aim of catching up with some of the Geese that spend the winter on our shores.
We had planned to start off in the Yare Valley, but for some reason the regular flock of Taiga Bean Geese have failed to turn up there this year, so it was straight to Lady Anne's Drive at Holkham. This was probably a good decision as the whole of Norfolk seemed to be swathed in dense fog, which luckily cleared about a mile away from the coast.
On arrival small numbers of Pinkfeet were gathered alongside the drive and a few  Greylags and Egyptian Geese could be seen in the nearby fields.
Pinkfooted Geese

We then took a walk down to the beach where up to ten Little Gulls flew offshore. On the sea 4 Red-breasted Mergansers  3 Slavonian Grebes and a Red-throated Diver were the highlights along with numerous Gannets.
A wander through the sand dunes found an impressive flock of around 60 Snow Buntings and surprisingly 5 Red-legged Partridges.                                                                                                    
It was then back to the Pinewood where  the usual Coal Tits, Treecreeper and Jays were seen. The duckpond held at least a dozen Little Grebes and a reasonable flock of Wigeon.,  From the Washington Hide more Pinkfeet and a few Curlew wandered the field. A couple of Marsh Harriers flew over and a Buzzard that sat on the hedgerow proved not to be one of the  Rough-legged type that have been around recently.                                                                                                         

We then moved on to nearby Friary Hills at Blakeney Freshmarsh. Two Barn Owls hunting over the marsh were among the first birds we spotted. There were more geese, this time a large flock of Brents and in a more distant field around 30 Whitefronts, 20 Barnacles and a few Canadas. Seven species of Geese for the day not bad at  all !                                                                                               
There had been a Cattle Egret at this site for several weeks, but this was the day it decided to go missing. So although we saw some great birds, the two 'rares' managed to get away. 

Monday, 21 November 2011

Great Bird, Rubbish Photo.

I've been on a run of dipping all the birds I've been going to see just recently. The Snow Bunting on Ivinghoe Beacon - a day too late !, Desert Wheatear at Holme - a day too late ! Slavonian Grebe at Little Marlow you guessed it a day too late !
 So when news of a Great Northern Diver showing up at nearby Caldecotte Lake came through last Wednesday and I was unable to nip out of work I expected the worst.
 Luckily I managed to pop out before work Thursday and to my surprise the bird was still present in the small shallow bay in the eastern end of the North Lake.
 As with all Divers this bird spent most of the time underwater, but when it was up it was sometimes less than ten yards away from where I stood, allowing for a good look at it's intricate plumage.
 I have added a dreadful photo of the bird (hopefully I can get back for a better effort when I have more time as it still remains today.) Excellent photos can be seen on Keith's Holding Moments blog - just click on the link to the right of this post.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

View from a Bridge

At Attenborough Nature Reserve in Notts, the birds seem a bit more confiding than elsewhere and several Cormorants fish under one of the bridges even while people are constantly walking over.

Cormorant

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Super Squacco and Smew surpass Slav and Snowbunt

(Sorry Carolyn couldn't resist)

 Having to work Saturday and visit Mum-in-law on Sunday meant I had to miss out on two Bucks ticks this weekend ! A Slavonian Grebe was at Little Marlow and a Snow Bunting turned up on Ivinghoe Beacon.

 However consolation was there was a Squacco Heron at Attenborough Nature Reserve, within walking distance of the wife's mothers.
 Luckily this was easy to find as it had stayed loyal to a particular spot on the River Erewash underneath a railway bridge.
 It was quite unperturbed by all the attention it was getting, although as usual the guys with the long lenses were getting as close as they possibly could. If your lens is that good surely there's no need you tossers !
 This was only the second Squacco I have seen in this country, but it was far the most confiding and gave great views until 3 local yobbos decided it was a good idea to ride their mini-motorbike down the river -wtf ??!!.
Squacco Heron

 It was then that decided to look around the rest of the reserve. I had heard there was a female Smew around and amazingly I managed to find this on the main lake - a very early bird. A female Goosander was also my first of the Winter and say it quietly but there was also a female duck of the kind that has almost been culled out of existence. I won't say it's name in case Defra are listening.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Update

I've been neglecting the blog just lately.
It's not that I haven't been out, it's finding the time to write it up.
So in brief this is what I've been up to.

 Sunday last saw the Bedford RSPB Group trip up to Fairburn Ings in West Yorkshire, where we saw Willow Tits Tree Sparrows, Siskins, Redpolls, Bullfinches, Whooper Swans, and a couple of Black Swans, one of which was a juvenile ( how long before these are accepted as Category C birds ?)
 At the Lin Dyke end of the reserve there were a pair of Pintail, Curlews and Snipe but alas no sign of the Long-eared Owl reported earlier in the day.

 Last Thursday was wet so I took the opportunity to visit Rutland Water to see if I could see the White-rumped Sandpiper and/or the American Wigeon that had been around for the past couple of weeks.
 Lots of Dunlins were moving around in front of Lapwing Hide and presumably this was where the Sandpiper was hiding Likewise the Yank Wigeon within the Eurasian Wigeon flock and unfortunately I failed to find either.
About 400 Golden Plover, 3 Ruff and around a dozen Pintail were the best bits of this unproductive trip.

Surprisingly I've been having more luck locally.
On Saturday I caught up again with the Great White Egret at Gayhurst Quarry, where there was also a Greenshank - a very unusual record for late October in Buckinghamshire.

 We again have wintering Short-eared Owls at Linford Reserve. Last week I saw one and yesterday there were two putting on a real spectacle as they hunted the field and also did battle with the local Crows.

 Sunday morning I took a walk around Willen and finally managed to catch up with a local Cettis Warbler for the year.
 Water Rails are back, with at least two squealing in the reeds. Duck numbers continue to rise, as do Coots, Great-crested and Little Grebes. A Kingfisher was a welcome sighting from the Hide, although I'm not so sure about the Fox hunting the Ducks in the same area.

                                                              Sleeping Swan

                                                              Hiding Heron

                                                             Loafing Lapwing

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Outwitted !

I popped into Tongwell to have a look around the lake this afternoon.
There was a definite increase in duck numbers with quite a few Tufteds, twenty or so Gadwall and 3 Shoveler mixed in with the regular Mallards.
 A Kingfisher sat on the edge of the dam and a Grey Wagtail paddled in the adjacent stream, but the star of the show today was a Black-headed Gull. A group of these stood on the dam wall and I noticed one was bearing a metal ring.
 My usual trick is to take a few photos of the bird and to blow up the pictures on the computer to see if I can read what it says.
 This bird though seemed to know what I was up to and although it allowed me to approach relatively close, the minute I lifted the camera it retracted it's leg into it's feathers and stood there on one leg.


This standoff carried on for five minutes or so until the leg came back down, but for only for a couple of seconds, when the bird decided to sit down !


 Another five minutes and then it moved, but this time on to the water in front of me !

 I did get some photos eventually, but then someone over the far side arrived with some bread and the flock headed off.



 Looking at the photos I have concluded that the bird was not ringed in this country, but where I'm not sure as I only have part of the inscription

 PITFE
THEM
3582

 Shame as would have loved to have known where this little chap came from. He was a real character.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Bucks Bogey Bird Bagged

Common Scoter is not a rare bird off the coast of Britain and I have seen many thousands. They occur probably every couple of years in inland Buckinghamshire and usually only stay for one day at a time.
 Every time one turns up I usually for one reason or another I am unable to get there to see it - usually due to work and on one occasion being too ill to get out of the house. Even Velvet Scoter is on my county list !
 When news came through of a bird at College Lake on Saturday night -too late to get there before dark I thought here we go again !
 It wasn't reported Sunday or Monday so I assumed my theory of one day wonders had come good again.
 However a text from Paul this morning informed me that it was still around.Luckily I was finishing work early and a quick dash down to the middle of the county had me watching this smart male seaduck before the reserve closed. He never came particularly close, but I wasn't particularly bothered, the monkey is off my back and my next Bucks tick is guarranteed to be something reasonably rare.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Home of Big White birds with Yellow beaks

I didn't visit Gayhurst Quarry this morning as I presumed there would be shooting going on. Looks like I slipped up.

 Instead I opted for a walk around the Willen Lakes.
Here there was an obvious increase in the number of ducks around. Lots of Wigeon, Teal, Tufted, Gadwall and Shoveler, but on the South Lake 2 Goldeneye were unexpected as were the 2 on North Lake - these are definitely a bit early !
 Coot nubers have incresed dramatically with easily a couple of hundred on site, about 100 Mute Swans are on South Lake and at least 50 Great-crested Grebes are spread around. 6 Little Grebes were seen from the hide.

 This afternoon, news came in of 6 Whooper Swans on the Fishing Pit at Gayhurst .Typical !
 Of course I had to go see for myself, and sure enough just up from the footpath 6 adult Whoopers were loafing on the side of the pit.
 I assume these birds have either overshot the Ouse Washes in this mornings fog or have stopped off on their way to the Severn Estuary. It would be fantastic though if it was last years over-wintering bird who had brought five of his friends to stay at the Gayhurst complex for the winter vacation.

Monday, 10 October 2011

He likes it here !

I managed a visit to Gayhurst Quarry this afternoon, having not managed to get there since I finally  connected with the Great White Egret there a couple of weeks ago                                                     .
It was quite windy so I didn't expect to see too many small birds and indeed this proved to be the case. A Chiffchaff in the local Long-tailed Tit flock being the highlight.                                             
A few ducks have arrived with a dozen or so Wigeon, an equal number of Teal, a couple of Gadwall, a Shoveler and a handful of Tufteds.
The Great-crested Grebes with the mobile nest have finally hatched out a youngster - seems very late in the year !
I had already seen a Heron and a couple of Little Egrets, when aproaching Reedy Pit I spotted a larger bird. It was the Great White ! He saw me and hopped over to Spinney Pit, where I watched him for a while until the Heron chased him over to Motorway Pit, where he seemed quite content to stay for a while. That's over a month now he's been in the area, I wonder if he'll overwinter.
Great White Egret

 I continued on around the river, seeing very little, other than a Grey Wagtail and a couple of Buzzards battling with the local crow flock.
 I always look under the motorway bridge for the local Crayfish and was happy to see one right in by the bank. I grabbed hold of it and took a few shots as they are quite impressive creatures. This one is posing beside a pound coin to give some sense of scale. This is by no means a big one as I have seen some twice this size.
Signal Crayfish

Monday, 3 October 2011

Mediterranean Weather

 Making the most of the unseasonably warm weather Angela, Becky and I took a trip to the coast yesterday.
 Great Yarmouth was the destination- not a place I could cope with for more than a single day at a time, but O.K in small doses and besides it is almost  the nearest you  are to the sea from inland Buckinghamshire.
 As it happened we had a very enjoyable day doing all the things you do at a typical British seaside resort, Funfair, Amusements, Fish and Chips, Ice-cream etc.

 This was not meant to be a birding day but, the bins are always handy and I happened to stumble across some decent birds during the course of the day. Not least the 5 Common Cranes that were flying alongside the A11 near to Snetterton, a Raven near to Lingwood and an Egret that looked too large to be a Little in a field just out of Yarmouth - unfortunately the road was too busy to stop.
 At Yarmouth itself the amount of Mediterranean Gulls was quite impressive, apart from Herrings they seemed to be the most abundant Gull as they scoured the beach on the lookout for any scraps that might have been on offer. I guess there must have been at least a dozen flying around with probably more out on the sea

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Wheatears

Working in Lathbury on Thursday I was keeping my eyes open for any signs of migration, but other than quite a few Skylarks and a couple of Yellow Wagtails passing over there didn't seem to be much going on.
However a  bird that just bobbed over my head and seemed to land on the roof of the house certainly attracted my attention - a Wheatear !
 Unfortunately it didn't linger, but surely this warranted a trip to Ravenstone Sewage Works - the local Wheatear hotspot during migration.
 So after work this was where I headed and sure enough the first bird I clapped eyes on was - a Wheatear !
 A further scout around the site revealed another Wheatear plus 5 or 6 Chiffchaffs feasting on the hoardes of Midges at the works, a Buzzard and a couple of Stock Doves but little else..

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Danish Gull

It took less than 2 days to hear about the Black-headed Gull ( BTO take 3 months ! )

The bird was ringed as a nestling at Raehr, Hanstholm, Nordjylland, Denmark on 21st June 2010.

So even the 'ordinary birds' are interesting !

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Great White finally on the patch List

My Sunday morning amble around Gayhurst Quarry seemed quite mundane to start with as there seemed to be very little around.
 A couple of Little Grebes, 2 Little Egrets, a dozen Teal and 4 Wigeon were about as good as it got.
However I persevered and carried on around the river where 4 Grey Wagtails were seen on the faster flowing part.
 Under the motorway bridge I spotted a Signal Crayfish and on standing to look noticed there were more. It was interesting to watch their antics, as there were some quite big ones which would disappear down a hole and 2 or 3 smaller ones would rush out. Small skirmishes would take place and it was surprising how quick they would skoot through the water. I must have counted a dozen or more of the little critters - no wonder people come down here to catch them !

A walk up to Quarryhall didn't produce to much on the deck, but there was quite a bit of movement overhead with small flocks of Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Swallows all heading South.
Looking down over Fishing Pit, a large white bird caught my eye as it pitched down onto the small river. This was surely an Egret, but looked too big to be a Little.
I had to go and check it out, so took a walk up the river. I flushed a Heron and 2 Little Egrets so thought I must have been mistaken, but then a bit further along a larger bird with a huge yellow bill got up. Yes Great White Egret ! so the rumours were true. Brill !
It flew off downstream where I guess is probably where it has been hanging out over the last few weeks, as this is perfect habitat and is out of bounds to the general public.

Another interesting find today was the corpse of a recently deceased Black-headed Gull, that was bearing a ring with the logo ' ZOOL MUSEUM DENMARK '. I'll send off the details and see what comes back. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Grafham again

For the fourth time this year I was lured back up to Grafham Water.
This time to see a couple of seabirds that had been blown inland by last weeks storms and had hung around since.
 Taking an extended lunch-break, I had expected these birds to give me the runaround, but as it turned out, they were both found within a couple of hundred yards of the visitor centre.
 The first was a cracking adult Sabines Gull, swimming just off of the dam wall and giving amazingly close views. Sometimes it would fly off but always returning to the same area.

Sabines Gull

 The second bird was this fine winter plumaged Grey Phalarope that was patrolling the dam in roughly the same area, again giving really close views.

Grey Phalarope



Cley Marshes

 Our latest RSPB trip was billed as Cley and Salthouse, but as Cley turned out so well we never did get to Salthouse.
 From the moment we left the Visitor Centre the birds seemed to keep coming.
A couple of newly arrived Pinkfeet took off from one of the pools as  we headed through the reedbeds towards the centre hides and a gang of 8 Bearded Tits flew around, while Cettis Warblers called and occasionally showed themselves near the hides.
 From the first hide Black-tailed Godwits, Curlews and Lapwings were numerous along with a couple of Ruff and a single Greenshank. A lone Little Egret hunted the reeds just outside.


Pat's Pool was absolutely heaving with birds - Black-tailed Godwits, Curlews, Ruff, Dunlin, Golden Plovers, Lapwings, 2 Little Stints, several Curlew Sandpipers and 2 Barnacle Geese walked amongst the Greylags and Canadas

 Our walk down the East Bank was accompanied by the 'pinging' of more Bearded Tits and calling Cettis Warblers. Out on the meadows, yet more Blackwits and Curlews kept the company of a dozen Egyptian Geese.
 A large bird flying over the marsh looked to be a Heron, but a glance through the bins showed it was in fact a Bittern and for a couple of minutes it put on a show for everyone to see. A Marsh Harrier quartered the area and a second Bittern was seen.
 On Arnold's Marsh a couple of Avocet remained, several Redshank, a few Shelduck and a group of Sandwich Tern loitered.

 We ate our lunch on the beach, while looking out to sea and were rewarded with sightings of several Gannets, a Red-throated Diver and 2 unidentified Skuas.

 Next stop was North Hide where again there were masses of waders, including several Curlew Sandpipers and bird of the day a Pectoral Sandpiper.
Wildfowl here included  Pintail, Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler.

 A look into the Eye Field as well as yet more Curlews and Black-tail Godwits turned up a migrant Wheatear and just offshore a couple of Red-throated Divers swam around close to a Common Seal.

 Back at the Visitor Centre, there was time for just one more treat in the shape of a Black Tern feeding over the front pool

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Nearly Bird

Unfortunately last weeks potential Mega failed to materialise as it turned out that it had escaped from a nearby aviary. Luckily this news came out before the exact location was released to the Birding Public.Odd that it wasn't ringed though, as these birds are supposedly woreth  around £550 a pair.
Thanks to Mike Collard for the use  of his photo 
Azure Tit (yellow-breasted Variety)

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Our Secret Mission

Got a text from Paul on Wednesday, saying did I fancy a trip down to the South of the county as a potential' first for Britain' had turned up in a garden in High Wycombe, but don't tell anyone as if the news gets out the place will go ballistic.
 So a mad dash after work with Paul and Nik ensued and we arrived about twenty past six, where five other birders stood on a lawn, intently watching some bird feeders and the word was' Yes it's here'
However somehow it slipped away and we had missed it.
For the next hour until darkness we waited, but it failed to return. How close was that, missing it by probably 5 seconds.
 Our wait though was far from uneventful with a costant stream of low flying Red Kites going off to roost nearby, a couple of calling Tawny Owls and a good number of Pipistrelle Bats that were seen to be emerging from the eaves of the house.

Dissappointed we decided a return visit was necessary and first light Thursday saw us back on site.
This time we were rewarded and almost immediately the local Tit flock appeared including the very smart  AZURE TIT !!!!!  What a cracking bird it was although it didn't hang around long, dashing back into cover the minute it had grabbed a Sunflower seed. Four times in the next half hour it did this and we had to be content with this.
 Shortly after the people in the house came out and kindly invited us in to their kitchen for closer views. We gratefully accepted but in the limited time we had the bird failed to reappear.

Back at work,  a text informed me that the news had been released to the big wide world.
Now the fun will begin. Arguments have already started as to whether it is wild or an escape, whether it is pure or a hybrid. Personally I don't care. I've seen it before the circus gets going. Let them get on with it. It's a lovely bird whatever !

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Egrets Gone..

 How come I visit Gayhurst Quarry on a regular basis and have still to find anything as rare as a Great White Egret, yet twice in the last three months people driving at seventy miles an hour down the adjacent M1 motorway claim to have seen this very bird on site.
 Now of course I had to go and check out today's latest report, especially with the bird recently cropping up at nearby Linford.
 Unfortunately there was no sign when I looked around this afternoon. There was of course the usual Little Egrets, at least 4 alive and this unfortunate individual, which looked as though it may have flown into a Power Line as it had a broken lower mandible and both legs were missing despite the rest of its body being intact, aside from a bit of decay

Birdwise there wasn't too much on offer other than the numerous young Mallards, a large flock of Black-headed Gulls, a single Common Sandpiper, a flyover Buzzard and Drakey Wigeon has reappeared after going missing for a few weeks.
A look across the field on the return walk showed a male Muntjac working  it's way along the hedge towards me. Thinking this would be an ideal photo opportunity, I crouched down waiting for it get to me. What I hadn't counted on however was that the strong south westerly wind was blowing directly from me to the deer and he was off before he got anywhere near.


Saturday, 3 September 2011

Great White seen in MK Waters !

Tea-time was interrupted tonight, when a text came through of a Great White Egret at Linford. This was too good to miss, so with apologies, I was off.
 Arriving at the surprisingly empty Near Hide, I opened the flaps to see giant white Heron standing on the side of the bund - Nice ! But as I lifted the bins to have a better view it decided to hop behind some vegetation to the other side of the bund. Oh well it will come out in a minute !
 Shortly after Alan Nelson (the finder), Graeme (Imperfect and Tense) Walker and his ' Lass' (sorry don't know your name) came in. They had been in Far Hide while the bird had been on the Near Hide side and had lost patience and come around, only for it to hop back while they were en-route.
After a while I decided I would take a wander around to the Far Hide in the hope of better views. As expected I had just opened the flaps, when it decided to move again. This time however into some trees at the far end of the bund, where I presume it went to roost.
 A fantastic bird for Bucks and although I had some good views they were all too brief.
Lets hope it sticks around..

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Serenaded by Ravens

I was working just out of county at Wootton in Beds today, when I suddenly became aware of a noise.
It was a while before I twigged that it was a Raven, but I soon spotted it calling from a Pine Tree in the nearby churchyard. The noise became more constant and I realised there were actually two birds.
 I carried on working and could hear the local Crows, Rooks and Jackdaws going beserk. Looking up I saw that there were now 4 birds flying around - amazing to think these birds were pretty rare around here a few years ago, in fact they're still quite scarce now.
 They once again landed in the Churchyard Pines where they remained all morning, occaisionally having a soar around and at one time joined a passing Buzzard.




Monday, 29 August 2011

Bank Holiday Ducks

Seems I got the thumbs up for my 2 Scaup at Gayhurst yesterday. Great ! my 126th species for the site since I adopted it as 'My Patch' in 2004 ish.

Today was spent in Nottinghamshire, where my usual walk around Attenborough Nature Reserve didn't produce too much, although both the Egyptian Goose with the pale head and the leucistic Red-crested Pochard have turned up with young - one of the RCPs the image of it's paler mother.


juvenile Red-crested Pochards

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Knowing the Scau(p)

Well I thought I did, but two new arrivals at Gayhurst Quarry this morning had me a bit puzzled today.
Two ducks on Spinney Pit on first look were showing a very large white blaize around their beaks and my initial thought was 'they could be Scaup, But it's still August so it's a bit early.',
 A bit more scrutiny. Largish Heads, Black on Bill restricted to the Nail area and no obvious Tuft on the back of the Head - all good for Scaup. Unfortunately another good feature the pale crescent behind the ear was not really present, so I'm still not 100% sure. I've asked a few people for their opinion, but as yet I've not heard back, so watch this space. I think at the very least they will turn out to be Scaup/Tufted Duck Hybrids.


Elsewhere around the pits, Ducks were not plentiful, if you ignore the annual released juvenile Mallards (probably about 500 of these), with half a dozen Tufted Ducks, 4 Teal and a single drake Gadwall.
Waders consisted of 3 Common Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper, 50 or so Lapwings and the family party of 4 Oystercatchers which were foraging in amongst the Cattle.
 A Little Grebe was new in and several Great-crested remain including a couple of juveniles, while one pair continue to incubate on Fishing Pit - everytime I visit this nest seems to have drifted further around the Pit.
 There seemed to be a few migrant smaller birds around today, with lots of Warblers, mainly Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, but also a Lesser Whitethroat and a single Spotted Flycatcher in amongst them.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Buff-breasted Near Miss and White-winger.

Fed up with not seeing very much locally, I took a trip to Norfolk today. Titchwell to be precise just to see what was around.
 It was a gloriously sunny day and a pleasure to walk around with not too many people around.
Just up from the Visitor Centre I could hear some Bearded Tits, but they would just not show themselves, however some movement in the reeds and bushes behind turned out to be a family of Cettis Warblers, so almost as good.
Lapwing
 Looking out from the Island Hide a good selection of waders were seen, including many Lapwing, probably 30 or so Ruff, including the one below, with as much bling as Mr T ! (click on the photo to see what I mean), lots of Dunlin and Ringed Plover and a couple of Spotted Redshank

Ruff
 From the impressive new Parrinder Hide everything was a bit distant as water levels were low and workmen were still creating the new banking so keeping everything away, but a couple of Marsh Harriers could be seen over the Reedbeds, a few Avocets paddled around and 7  Egyptian Geese sat amongst the Canadas, Greylags and Shelduck.
 The Brackish Marsh was full of Redshank, with also a Greenshank and beautiful summer plumaged Grey Plover, while several Curlew and a lone Whimbrel flew over.

 Down on the beach, birdwise it was fairly quiet, save for a few Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Bar-tailed Godwits. Other than a single juvenile Gannet that flew through the sea was birdless.
Sanderling
Walking back down I stopped for a while at Island Hide, where in addition to the previously mentioned birds, a Snipe and a reasonable sized flock of Golden Plover had come in. I thought I ought to loook through these , just in case of a stray Dotterel, American Golden Plover or such was lurking within when they took off. As it happened there was a smaller wader in the flock, but I couldn't figure out what it was.
 Imagine my frustration on getting home on finding out that it had been a Buff-breasted Sandpiper !!!

I planned my journey home to call in at Grafham Water to look in at the White-winged Black Tern that was frequenting the harbour around the Fishing Lodge.
 I didn't have a lot of time so it was lucky that the bird was sitting on the boom just off shore with 3 or 4 Black Terns and a dozen or so Common Terns. It posed very nicely until a moment of high drama when a moment of panic sent all the birds scattering as a Hobby dashed in and tried to take one of them. As far as I could see it was unsuccessful.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Chipping Away

First Chipping Norton and now Chipping Sodbury !

I woke really early today, so decided not to waste the opportunity and set off on a twitch. Chipping Sodbury in South Gloucestershire was the destination, where a Woodchat Shrike had taken up residence for the last week or so. Now I have seen dozens of these on holidays in Mallorca and Portugal, but this would be a British first.
 Setting off at about 5.15, I arrived at the site around 7.30, highlights of the journey down being numerous Buzzards, Kestrels a couple of Sparrowhawks and a pair of Ravens that flew low over the road near Bibury.
 The only directions I had on arriving were park near the farm buildings and walk 800 yards West. No-one else was around, so this might have been hard work.
 As it happened it wasn't, having covered what I guessed was about the right distance, I stopped and scanned around. The first bird I locked onto was a female Redstart flycatching from a nearby hedge, then a slightly bigger bird on the side of a Rose bush a bit further on was surely the Shrike ! A look through the scope and yes it was. Wow birding at it's easiest !
 I stayed and watched this rather smart bird for some 20 minutes or so before a local dog walker suddenly appeared and flushed it off. A quick wander around the site produced dozens of Bullfinches, Goldfinches and Linnets, but little else.
 Great weather helped make this a perfect twitch and made up for some of the recent ordinary birding. 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Wash Day

On Sunday I was lucky enough to be invited to accompany some of the Beds Birders on their now annual Boat trip in Lincolnshire.
 We met up in Boston where we boarded the 'Boston Belle' and were soon heading down 'The Haven' towards The Wash.
Passing by the 'Boston Stump' (the parish church) and the Boston Dump (the whole Town - a filthy place, rubbish everywhere, wrecks of boats  all over the place, East-European pissheads drinking their illegal vodka on the riverside) and the municipal tip, it was good to get beyond the town).
 We then started seeing a few wading birds along the sides of the waterway, - lots of Common Sandpipers, 5 and 6 at a time, Redshanks Oystercatchers, Curlews and quite a few Whimbrel
A hairy moment half way down river was seeing an enormous Freighter heading straight at us on it's way towards the Docks. Luckily we managed to get out of it's way as the Captain certainly wasn't keen to yield any water to us.
 Continuing on, with the enticing aroma of frying Bacon from the Galley we witnessed Shelducks, Little, Common and Sandwich  Terns, before entering The Wash, where a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits and a lone Brent Goose stood on the shore near to the RSPB Freiston Reserve.
 The sea was quite choppy so the decicion was made to turn around and head back inland up the River Welland. Here a group of Common Seals basked on the muddy banks, Marsh Harriers quartered the marshes and a Hobby did a pass of the front of the boat. Common Sandpipers were still everywhere, a flock of Knot whirled around, Whimbrels gave close but brief views before being spooked by the boat and a lone Roe Deer grazed on the meadows.
 Upon reaching Fosdyke Bridge, the boat was turned around and we headed back to the sea. At the rivermouth a very large wader flock included Dunlin, Knot, Turnstone, Grey and Ringed Plovers.
 A slow chug back up The Haven back to Boston was pretty uneventful, aside from having to wait for the Tide to go out enough for the boat to pass under the Town Bridge.
 An interesting way to watch birds, but only if you're quick enough to see them before they fly off.

 It was still early enough for us to call in at RSPB Frampton Marsh on the way home.
Spotted Crake, Pectoral Sandpiper and Temmincks Stint had all been here the day before so surely we would strike lucky with one of these.
 Now Spotted Crake is an illusive bird at the best of times, so predictably despite a reasonable stake-out we, missed out on this one, surely one of the other two would be seen.
 An hour or so in the hides, with sixteen plus pairs of eyes looking out still drew a blank, although Ruff, Snipe, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwits, Whimbrel, Common, Green and a couple of Wood Sandpipers did go part way to making it a successful visit.

Friday, 5 August 2011

The Killer with a Cute Face

Amazingly I had my camera with me when I stumbled across this little guy last week. This fantastic Stoat was hunting in the cracks in the ground where the earth had dried out.

 Although totally aware that I was watching, he was happy to carry on with what he was doing, just poking his head up every now and again to check where I was.






Thursday, 4 August 2011

A Slice of Fudge

Last week I nipped over to Paxton Pits in nearby Cambridgeshire. A drake Ferruginous (Fudge) Duck had been hanging around. I haven't sen too many of these before so I thought it was worth a look.
 From where you park the car to where the bird was being seen is quite a walk but it is through some bird rich countryside, with Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Sedge and Reed Warblers all seen.
 Arriving at Pumphouse Pit I had a good look around trying to decide where my target bird might be lurking.In the process notching up Little Grebe, Little Egret and a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls onto the day tally.
 I found a small flock of Tufted Ducks with a few Pochard amongst them and sort of guessed this might be the most likely area to find the Fudgie.
 After about an hour of 'Was that it that just dived ?', I finally managed a long enough look to identify the chestnut brown duck with the white eye as a drake Ferruginous Duck. Hard work but worth it in the end.
 A bonus while waiting was the constant 'purring' of 2 Turtle Doves on wires just a short distance away and a Hobby that flew by on the walk back.

 While in the area, I decided to take a look at nearby Grafham Water.
A walk along the dam produced a few birds. Lots of Wagtails, mainly Pied, but a reasonable number of Yellow, a few juvenile Gulls, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed  and Black-headed, a lot of eclipse Mallard drakes and a family of Shelduck.

juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull feeding on a dead Carp



juvenile Shelduck
 One bird on the dam was quite a surprise - a Juvenile Kittiwake - unfortunately deceased.

juvenile Kittiwake
 From here I took a walk around the Lagoons and was very pleased to see the pair of Avocet and their two youngsters that they had reared on site, also a Green Sandpiper and 3 Little Egrets prowled around on the mud.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Surrey Sunday

Our latest Bedford RSPB trip was to Thursley Common in Surrey.
Sadly this site is not quite what it used to be since the devastating fire that wiped out most of the Heathland in 2006.
 Dartford Warblers have yet to recolonise the site, so our best birds had to be 3 Woodlarks, one of which landed in a tree above our heads and gave us a version of its notable song, a Hobby, a family of Spotted Flycatchers and several  family parties of Stonechats.

                                                Juvenile Stonechat

 Thursley is noted for it's insect population, in particular Dragonflies, and I'm told we saw Emperor, Keeled and Black-tailed Skimmers, Brown Hawkers and several others.

                                                    Keeled Skimmer

An interested insect that is present at Thursley is the Beewolf. This is a large member of the wasp family that preys on Honey Bees. It paralyses them with it's sting before carrying them off to it's burrow where it's eggs are laid on it's helpless victim. The hatched larvae then feast on the still living Bee. I did see some  carrying Bees around, but this one is empty-handed. Click on the photo to see how ferocious it looks.

                                                            Beewolf

 Lizards are very common at this site  and many of the Common type were encountered , especially on the boardwalks over the marshland, including lots of young ones and several pregnant females.


pregnant Common Lizard


On our way home we decided to take a look at Staines Reservoirs.
A lot of waterfowl were seen but most were Mallards and Coots.Scanning through these we did find some Tufted Duck, a few Pochard, 3 Shoveler, a couple of juvenile Shelduck, a fly-through Common Sandpiper and the best bird of the day a smashing summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Flycatcher Update

I've been checking on the Lathbury Spotted Flycatchers at least once a week since the first bird arrived at the beginning of June.
 Up until now I'd only ever seen one bird but assumed there must be a pair, as surely the lone bird just wouldn't stick around.
 Today this was confirmed as a pair were seen collecting insects and taking them off to feed young in a so far unseen nest.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Young Ones

Gayhurst Quarry seemed to be full of young birds this morning. Walking down the track I saw family parties of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Blue and Great Tits, young Blackbirds and Robins.                          
At the pits the theme continued with juveniles of Black-headed Gulls and still lots of young Common Terns.The Swans still have two fast growing Cygnets and there are 2 families of Great-crested Grebes.
New on site was a brood of 5 tiny Tufted Ducks following mum around on Motorway Pit, and 3 young Kingfishers chased one of the parents up the river.                                                                                   
I couldn't find the Oystercatchers on the island today, but on my walk back I could hear the piping calls of the adult birds on Reedy Pit.
 
 I didn't think this was a good sign, but as I sat and watched the two babies emerged out of the undergrowth. They can obviously swim from a very early age.

 Other good birds seen around the site included a Hobby that was harrassed by a large gang of Sand and House Martins, a Buzzard, 4 Little Egrets, one Green and one Common Sandpiper and a growing flock of just over a hundred Lapwings.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Vidye-vudya vu (how the heck are you ?)

It's often the case that the most non-descript birds have loud distinct songs. This is most certainly true of the Common Rosefinch.
 The Three Musketeers (Nik, Paul and Myself ) embarked on our latest Twitch into Cambridgeshire last night to try and see the said bird
 We had done our homework before we set off (lesson learned from this weeks Greater Yellowlegs debacle at Daventry Reservoir, where a few hundred  birders had happily ticked the above, only for someone to say 'Actually Guys it's  a Greenshank !!' (thank goodness I was waiting until the evening before going)), and studied all the features and call.
 The small village of Melbourn was our destination and following local directions we soon found the gardens, where the the little guy was hanging around.
 Luckily we had studied the call as this bird is a real typical little brown job  (well first summer males as this one is) and I'm sure we would never have found it on looks alone.
 Like I say the call is very noticeable and we were soon able to trace the bird in the conifers of the largest of the said gardens. We did enjoy good views for prolonged periods, before deciding it was time for  a beer and a curry at a nearby Indian

Friday, 8 July 2011

Now it starts

In amongst the heavy showers I took alook around Gayhurst Quarry this morning to see if any wader migration was taking place yet.
 I was not disappointed as I found 5 species around the site.
On Fishing Pit there were the usual Lapwings with a few well grown juveniles amongst their numbers. I had scanned the whole lake, seeing a few Coot, Mallard and Great-crested Grebe, when I noticed a Little-ringed Plover on the nearest exposed mud spit. Looking closer this became 2, then 5 and finally 7 - easily a site record as I had only ever seen the odd ones and twos here. They were all adults and amongst them was a Common Sandpiper so I would guess they were all returning migrants.
 The Swans on Spinney Pit have finally given up on their eggs and the family of Great-crested Grebes are still doing well.
 The Motorway Pit Mutes have now relocated to Reedy Pit with their surviving 2 young and these are growing fast. It was here that I noticed another small wader picking around the mud - a Green Sandpiper.
 Motorway Pit was alive with birds, very noticeably Common Terns, which seem to have had a very good year. I counted a minimum of 26 juveniles, most of which are flying around. It was here that I spotted yet another Little-ringed Plover, but my biggest surprise was the Oystercatchers. I had presumed they hadn't bred this year as I kept seeing two birds at opposite ends of the site, but was very pleased to see two adult birds on the edge of the island and then two fluffy balls appeared out of the grass. There were at least 5 Little Egrets around and another pair of Great-crested Grebes with their stripey hitchhikers.

 Up at Quarryhall, there was a lot of chirpinng coming from the bushes and closer inspection revealed probably a dozen Tree Sparrows, including several young birds. Also seen here were Linnets, Yellowhammer, Skylarks, Reed Buntings and Stock doves.
 A pair of ears kept popping up out of the Oatfield and eventually these revealed them to belong to a Roe Deer.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Still Quiet on the Birding Front

June and early July have always been quiet months regarding birds, especially in inland counties like Buckinghamshire. This year seems worse than ever, but at least there are a few interesting insects to look at.
When I came back from Mallorca I commented that there seemed to be an abundance of Hummingbird Hawk Moths over there, and wondered if we were in for an invasion year. It seems we could be, as a lot of people are reporting them lately and I have seen 3 myself in the last week including 2 together this morning. They are incredibly difficult to photograph as they are so active, but here are a few of my efforts. Click on the photos to see more details including the incredibly long proboscis.





I also came across this gathering of Green-veined and Small White Butterflies on the edge of a dried up pond.I haven't seen this many together for twenty years or so.