Sunday, 15 January 2017

Lynford and an Iceland Gull in Thetford

A very wet grey day in Lynford ended with a very wet grey twitch for the Iceland Gull on Thetford tip.

At Lynford I heard Crossbill in the car park but failed to see any. I did find a single Hawfinch sat in the Hornbeams in the paddock and another two flew straight over in the rain. Huge flocks of Siskin noisily flitted about overhead and I found Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch and Treecreeper by the bridge. A Water rail walked along the edge and three Bullfinch added a touch of colour to a very grubby day. A Great-spotted Woodpecker gave another year tick before the weather got the better of me and I left for the short drive to Thetford where an Iceland Gull had been seen this morning.

On arrival there was no sign of either the Iceland or reported Glaucous Gull but after a while the smaller white winger flew in to feed on some scraps at the tip so I grabbed a few shots in the rain to record it and then left to get home for lunch.

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull at the tip
Iceland Gull

juvenile Iceland Gull

Year list now 140

Saturday, 14 January 2017

When DNA let's you down.

So we've given the Stejneger's Stonechat at Dungeness three goes. We got a a good soaking got blown away by the wind and then today walked around in freezing conditions. The good news was that today we finally found the bird and enjoyed good views of this very GREY individual. The bird has been the subject of much debate with a poop sample being collected and sent to Aberdeen for testing apparently labeling the bird as Stejneger's and starting a whole new level of interest.

So imagine having finally found it the same day the DNA results are revisited and the bird is now thought to be a STONECHAT so will be coming off many a list as I type but fair play all those that voiced the doubt even with the DNA seemingly offering proof of it's pedigree.

The Grey Stonechat
Still a great bird!

Before the Stonechat we enjoyed a cracking sunrise and bagged a few Kittiwake for our trouble and a Great White Egret from the causeway to give another year tick.

Sunrise at Dunge
At Scotney we failed to find any Bean Geese amongst the Greylags but did pick out four Pink-feet and four feral Snow Geese. The feral Barnacles were also there in good numbers as usual.

Feral Snow Goose

So with a few Ruff on the reserve and added to the Little Owl picked up in Havering during the week my year list now stands at 133

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Great visit to Wallasea Island

Sometimes a days birding can deliver very little and then sometimes days like today come along where it all seems to go right.

A Barn Owl as we pulled into the track to the reserve followed by two Short-eared Owls hunting at first light then a male Merlin flashes across us and sits out on a small mound giving superb scope views. Corn Buntings and Skylarks fly around calling before the main attraction comes out to play.
A male Hen Harrier hunting the marsh and wow do we get good scope views as it stays out for over half an hour before being joined by the female bird. Lots of Kestrel and a single Marsh Harrier showed before we stumbled on a Mealy Redpoll keeping close company with the four Twite wintering at Wallasea. A Green Sandpiper and couple of Snipe flew over and good numbers of waders were on the mud banks of the estuary.

A tip off gave us Shag and Eider at the Marina where we picked up a Green Woodpecker too.

As we were close to Southend we took the detour and picked out several Med Gulls on the beach and found a smart Kingfisher using the jetty to fish the shoreline. We then headed for Pitsea and connected with the Waxwings outside Mcdonalds with a small mixed gathering of birders and interested shoppers all getting a little more birding experience which can't be a bad thing.

Med Gulls at Southend
Kingfisher on the beach at Southend
I dropped the Jims off and headed off into Epping Forest with my son for a quick bit of local birding.
Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Goldcrest and Mandarin were all added quickly and we found a nice male Brambling which is a good bird here. I couldn't find Jimmy's Firecrest so that'll have to wait for another day.

Heron in Epping Forest

Add the mid-week Parakeets (Highams Park and in the garden) and Mistle Thrush (Abridge) and the year list now sits at a healthy 128.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Norfolk and another Glauc.

Day 2 2017: Norfolk!

A Barn Owl in semi darkness on the way up and a Woodcock in semi darkness on the way back framed the day nicely. In between we had enjoyed Twite at Thornham, Velvet Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Great Skua, Eider and Water Pipit at Titchwell. A massive Glaucous Gull dropped in whilst we were looking for Snow Bunting at Salthouse and a Peregrine took a Pigeon out at sea but had to release it not having the strength to carry it ashore. The Pigeon made it ashore too but fell into the grass not to be seen again. Good numbers of Gannet were a surprise for this time of year in Norfolk but I guess the cold north westerly winds helped with that and the Glauc for that matter with this being one of three to arrive in Norfolk today.

We dipped the Waxwings at Cromer but managed good views of a couple of Ring-tailed Hen Harriers at Stiffkey before heading home.

The Glaucous Gull at Salthouse
A proper brute of a gull.

Year list now 112 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Wet start to 2017

We headed down to Dunge today as the weather guys forecast a little less rain in the south than further north although you wouldn't have noticed as it was grey and wet all day with a cold wind coming in off the sea too.

I picked up a Marsh Harrier as my first bird of the year before setting up for an early sea watch where conditions were poor with a sea mist hampering views. We did however pick up Red-throated Divers and a single Great Northern along with plenty of Gannets and Guillemots. Two Razorbill were a little harder to find but eventually gave themselves up to the scope between the waves and the sea also had good numbers of Great-crested Grebes and Cormorants. Three Brent Geese flew up and two Common Scoter flew down before two Great Skuas came in close to the shore bullying the Gulls. Turnstone and Oystercatcher flew down and we picked up the usual gulls too although the expected Kittiwake eluded us. As we packed up to leave another birder drove up and asked if we'd seen the Glaucous Gull which we hadn't so we followed him to the other end of the point were the Glauc was still sitting on the water to give an unexpected tick. At the fishing hut we managed to find both the adult and 1st winter Caspian Gulls.

At Lade we found the Slav Grebe but couldn't locate the Stonechat despite a good search in the rain along with a few other year listers. One guy gave nearly five hours up today without success despite the bird being reported three times between 9am and 2pm.

On the reserve the ticks included Tree Sparrow, Ring-necked Duck, Smew and Water Rail whilst a trip to Horsebones farm delivered Bewick Swan.

The days total reached 74 which was a real struggle in challenging conditions but at least we're up and running and looking forward to what the year will bring.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Short eared Owls at Burwell Fen

Another visit to Burwell where at least thirteen Short-eared Owls performed well all afternoon.
Because there were a few about they called regularly and had a few interactions with each other and the local kestrels and crows.


Thursday, 29 December 2016

Review of the year 2016

Looking back on 2016 it's been one of the best since I started birding and listing. Rarities have just kept on coming all year.

Black Duck at Strontian
My year list reached a reasonable 280 only five short of my best ever.
I crossed paths with a respectable 14 lifers (15 if Birt gets accepted) taking the life list to 381/2

Hooded Merganser  27th February in Wiltshire
Black Duck  27th April in Strontian Scotland
Iberian Chiffchaff 30th April in Telford
Rufous Turtle Dove  1st May in Otford Kent
Western Bonelli's Warbler 8th May on Gibraltar Point Lincs
Franklin's Gull  13th May at Abberton in Essex
Great-spotted Cuckoo 15th May at Portland in Dorset
Great Reed Warbler 17th May at Paxton in Cambs.
Western Swamphen 23rd September in Alkborough, Lincs
Radde's Warbler  9th October at Holkham in Norfolk
Siberian Accentor  16th October at Easington in Yorkshire
Cliff Swallow 5th November at Minsmere in Suffolk
Forster's Tern 19th November at Mistley in Essex
Blyth's Pipit 20th December at Blagdon in Somerset
The Blue Rock Thrush firmly on the pending list with fingers crossed for it.

Great Spotted Cuckoo
Blue Rock Thrush
The star bird was obviously the Siberian Accentor and the biggest dip was the Alpine Accentor at Gibraltar but we did pick up a Western Bonelli's on that day so all was not lost.

Siberian Accentor
I visited Scotland for a week in April and finally found the Black Duck
A day trip to Skomer was memorable and a winter break in Norfolk was a nice end to the year.

Puffin on Skomer
Snow Bunting at Salthouse
Close encounters included Hobby at Dungeness, Jack Snipe at Elmley, Baird's Sandpiper at Reculver, Black Guillemot at Oban, Great-spotted Cuckoo in Portland, Hoopoe in Hinksford, Cirl Bunting in Devon and of course the Snow Buntings in Norfolk.

Hobby at Dunge
Jack Snipe at Elmley
Best twitch would be the Cuckoo I think, nice place good crowd and a great bird and the worst this year would have to be the Turtle Dove, something about the urban twitch just isn't right but when you need to you need to as with the Blue Rock Thrush.

I missed a few easy yearticks again namely Nightjar, Quail, Ruddy Duck, Honey Buzzard, Grey Phalarope, Pom and Long-tailed Skua, Iceland Gull, and Common Redpoll. All birds I could and should have added. (would have given me my biggest year yet at 290) not to mention a few others I could have gone for. I hope the Pelican doesn't become a regret and the biggest miss was the Tawny Pipit at Dunge which I really should have seen.

Still no trip to Scilly so still missing the big three Shearwaters and the Wilsons Petrel.
maybe 2017...who knows?

I went for and dipped the White-crowned Sparrow in Cheshire missing it by minutes on-route home from Scotland and think that was the only dip of 2016 but I may be guilty of selective memory there?

Favourite pic is one of my notables from Birdguides...the Firecrest again taken at Dunge.

Firecrest at Dunge
Will I be year listing again in bet!
It takes you to places in search of year ticks but in the process you stumble on some great photo ops and like the Black Duck occasionally it delivers a lifer without the twitch and you just never know what you might encounter on the day. I'd like to get the 19 lifers I need for the 400 but guess I'll come up a bit short in all honesty and it may still be a couple of years away.

Time and money will as always play there part in my exploits but I look forward to starting again on what looks like a very wet January 1st....see you at Titchwell!

Thanks for reading my continued scribbles and best of luck to you and yours in 2017