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.

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.