Wednesday, 29 February 2012

In Beds all morning

With a morning to spare I decided to have a look for some of the decent birds that have ben seen recently over the border in Bedfordshire.
 First off was a visit to Flitwick Moor to try and track down a pair of Lesser spotted Woodpeckers. I knew the chances were slim but if you look you may see, if you don't look you definitely won't see.
As it happened I didn't see.
 There were Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Treecreepers and a Sparrowhawk doing it's spectacular 'rollercoaster' display flight. Lots of common stuff including Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits. But perhaps the most unusual bird seen was this 'Black bellied' Great Tit.

Black bellied Great Tit (click on bird)

 A new site for me was Kings Wood at nearby Ampthill, where Firecrest was my next target. A couple of birds had been present here since last October but had only been  rediscovered yesterday.
 It was quite a walk to get to the spot that they frequented but on the way several Skylarks were singing and Yellowhammers told of their empty sandwiches. In the wood itself Nuthatches and several Goldcrests sang.
 There were three other people  looking for the birds, so hopefully this would make it easy to find them. Well no not really! For about an hour we scrutinised every small bird that moved  amongst the Ivy covered trees - Blue tits, Great Tits,Long-tailed Tits and to make things harder more Goldcrests. Eventually a singing bird was tracked down right near the top of a bare branched tree and although it was difficult to pick out any detail on it from beneath, eventually it turned it's head to reveal the distinctive white eye stripe - Firecrest !!. Unfortunately it didn't linger and this was the best view we had.
 My last stop off was Brogborough Lake. Here I scanned through the masses of Pochard and Tufted Ducks to find a couple of dozen Goldeneye, a few Mallard, Gadwall and eventually the two drake and one duck Scaup that I had come to see.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Birding the Bill

On Sunday the RSPB group set off to West Sussex, not an area I'd visited before and I have to say I was more than impressed.
Our first stop was at the excellent RSPB reserve of Pagham Harbour.
As it happened there was a mega bird on site in the form of an overwintering Paddyfield Warbler, but the word was this was a bird that only showed itself every two or three hours and if it did it was only ever going to be very distant, so this was never going to be an option as there was so much other exciting habitat to look around.
 Starting off from the visitor centre, a look at the Ferry Pool gave us views of masses of Lapwing, Wigeon and Shelduck, with small numbers of Teal, Shoveler, a couple of Oystercatcher, a Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit. The field beyond contained a few Skylark and 4 or 5 Roe Deer.
 Raptors included Buzzard, Kestrel and a distant Red Kite.
A wander along the south of the harbour produced lots of wildfowl: Numerous Pintail and Shelduck, large flocks of Brent Geese with lesser numbers of Teal, Mallard, Shoveler and Gadwall. A flock of a dozen or so Avocet was nice, Curlew and Redshank were everywhere, a large flock of Golden Plover wheeled around in the distance as did some Knot. Dunlin and Grey plovers added to the wader tally.
 After lunch we travelled the short distance down to Selsey Bill.
Oddly there was very little going on here with the sea devoid of any birds save for a small Gull flock which comprised of Black-headed, Common and seven or eight Mediterranean Gulls including a couple in full summer plumage.
 Two Sanderling scurried along the beach and a group of Turnstone fed among the pebbles.

 We had been told to look out for a Black Redstart that had been overwintering in the area and this was eventually located on the roof of one of the beach side houses. It was very wary but did come down to feed on groynes.
Black Redstart (click on picture)
 Often accompanying the Redstart when it returned to the nearby gardens was a Chiffchaff which could have been a overwinterer or an early migrant.
 It was then back to Pagham Habour but this time at the Church Norton end.
Again there were lots of wading birds here with lots of Curlew and Redshank, Oystercatchers and a good few Dunlin, Knot and Ringed Plovers. In the distance were flocks of Black-tailed Godwits and Golden Plovers.
 Among the Herring, Greater and Lesser-black Gulls a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls were picked out.
 From the beach again there was very little on the sea save for a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers and a couple of Great-crested Grebes with some very distant white birds that may well have been Gannets.
 Further along the beach there were good numbers of Mediterranean Gulls a group of five Bar-tailed Godwits were spotted amongst the many waders.
 Unfortunately by late afternoon a viscous cold wind had set in and this encouraged an early end to the day.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Ice-hole Birds

The huge freeze we are having prompted me to visit Willen this morning in the hope something slightly less usual had dropped in.
 I started at the top end of the north lake to see that the whole lake ice-bound save for two small unfrozen areas and these didn't actually hold many birds. There were just a few Mallard, a couple of dozen Wigeon and a pair of Mute Swans in one and twenty odd Coot and a single drake Pochard in the other.
 As always I stopped for a while by the feeder stream and as often in these conditions a Water Rail paddled around in the smelly drainage water, another called nearby and three Snipe flew out.
Making my way towards the hide a Cettis Warbler sang out in defiance of the cold and a few Long-tailed Tits flitted through the reeds.
 From the hide the large flock of Lapwings remain but it looks like the Redshank has had enough and departed. The area of water alongside the east of the island was frost free and held good numbers of Teal, Mallard and 3 Little Grebe.
 The whole of the east side of the south lake was ice-bound and thus held no birds, but from a lakeside Pine a lone Goldcrest had survived Friday night's minus 10 and was happily foraging for it's breakfast.
 A flock of what sounded like a hundred Siskins was in the Alder on the other side of the river but in reality there were only about 10 - noisy little devils!
 Arriving near the Wayfarer there was an area of unfrozen water and this seemed to be cram-packed with all sorts of waterfowl, allowing close views of birds you wouldn't usually get anywhere near in normal times.

The crowded Ice-hole

drake Goldeneye

female Goldeneye

first winter male Goldeneye

drake Pochard

drake Tufted Duck

drake Gadwall

Great-crested Grebe

Friday, 10 February 2012

Mammals in the Snow

I didn't get to work today due to the snow, but managed to spot these two mammals within the village borders.
Firstly this rather large rat, that is taking food from the birdtable.
Brown Rat
and secondly this rather more cute Muntjac


Saturday, 4 February 2012

Salcey Birds

I took a wander around Salcey Forest early today, mainly on the lookout for Lesser-spotted Wodpeckers.
 I didn't have any luck there but found both Great-spots and Green. Birds of Prey were seen in the form of Kestrel and Sparrowhawk and Corvids in the shape of Carrion Crows, Jackdaws and several noisy Jays.
 Considering I was in the middle of a forest it was surprising how many Bullfinches were around with around a dozen seen along the rides.

Coal Tit


Marsh Tit
 Small birds were the main attraction though. As usual I had taken some seed with me and as soon as I scattered it on a fallen log, the birds were there, Nuthatches, Robins, Dunnocks, Great, Blue, Coal and Marsh Tits all making their raids on the makeshift bird table