Saturday, 23 August 2014

Wheatears and Waders

An early morning trip to Dunge today found a very calm sea, no wind and even the sun was shining almost had me thinking I'd taken a wrong turn. On the beach the Common Terns were noisy as they hunted up and down the tide line and a number of gulls roosted but nothing of note.

Wheatear Wreck
On the shingle there were Wheatears everywhere with one upturned boat having eight birds on it at one time.
A drive around the reserve gave up more Wheatears and a further drive around Denge Marsh gave up more but I found no Whinchat.

I drove across to Oare where the East Flood was full to bursting with waders.
Big numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, Avocet and Golden Plover, A few Dunlin, Ruff, Redshank, Lapwing and Ringed Plover made up the bulk along with a couple of Knot a single Green and Curlew Sandpiper and a Snipe. A pair of Marsh Harrier and a Common Buzzard flew over giving the waders some concern.

Black-tailed Godwit
I enjoyed watching the waders wading for a while before making the journey home.
No ticks today but a nice break from work all the same.

Looks like I may have missed a "probable" Baltic Gull........ouch!
note to self: must work harder at Gull ID.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Bee-eater finally makes it on the list

Today I picked up the Jim's and headed down the M3 to pick up the 7.15 ferry from Lynmouth to Yarmouth on the Isle Of Wight. I booked the ferry last night for the car and three passengers at a cost of £60 and the 120 mile drive down took a couple of hours. The ferry crossing was smooth and we then made the 17 mile drive south to Niton (postcode PO28 2NY to be precise)

We pulled into the sign posted car park (field) at 8.15am and spoke with the volunteer on duty who told us that seeing the birds would be difficult with todays overcast and windy weather but within seconds of getting the scope up we'd picked up a couple of splendid Bee-eaters sitting in a dead tree and although distant we enjoyed good scope views for the next three hours as three birds came and went. One bird flew towards us and could be heard calling as it circled overhead. The Bee-eater has to be the most spectacularly coloured on the British list and I'm delighted to have finally added it to my list having seen them abroad but never finding one over here to tick before today.
The tick is made all the sweeter by the fact that these birds are only the third to breed in Britain.

The news from the site is that the birds (actually four adult birds here) nested in an old Rabbit scrape and have so far fledged three young with another still to leave the nest. The nest has been protected by an electric fence to keep the local Fox at bay and volunteers have kept a 24/7 watch over the nest to protect it from egg thieves. Good work all round.

Penguin in Yarmouth harbour

Year list now at 237 and the life list moves to 346 

Other news: I enjoyed at day at the emirates yesterday with my youngest!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Hurricane Bertha

So Hurricane Bertha made it across the Atlantic today bringing with it heavy rain and strong winds.
I reluctantly called off the planned trip to the Isle of Wight fearing the weather would firstly make it difficult to get over and back and secondly make it difficult to see the Bee-eaters.

A few checks on line and it would seem to have been a decent call not to travel today!

Ferry cancellations
The weather forecast got worse during the day!
The Ferry company issued apologies for cancellations to their scheduled crossings which I suppose makes the concern we had a little more justified.

As for Cornwall and the expected volumes of sea birds the storm was to deliver......well it delivered a few but my guess is that it was a long, slow day on the coast for the slim pickings it delivered.

A few shearwaters about today.
On a brighter note I just got a nice message from my son who bumped into a legend at Wembley today.

Ian Wright Wright Wright 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Planning a trip is not without it's issues.

So I make no secret that I would like to see the Bee-eaters on the Isle of Wight and it should be a simple matter of, get time off for good behaviour, drive down the M3 get the ferry over, see the birds and drive back but it's never that simple.

Firstly work gets in the way and when I do finally get the time to go the weather decides to get involved too.

So on the face of it the weather isn't looking too bad with rain until late morning then plenty of sunshine.
But I read on and find that a met office Amber warning is now in place for the Isle of Wight.

So my planning now has to consider the fact that this warning exists and coupled with the fact that the trip also involves a 40 minute ferry sailing and the rain lasting well into the morning the trip would for sure present a few hurdles.

So then I check the ferry company and find no details of planned shut downs or anything of that nature and in fact crossing costs are very reasonable indeed. (£60 for the three amigos and car).

Ferry costs
The big talk is Hurricane Bertha hitting our shores this evening and what yank birds it may or may not deliver down the western coast of the UK and this coupled with talk of strong on shore winds bringing some large shearwaters close enough to the Cornish coast to be seen will I'm sure give a good few birders cause for planning this weekend but for me it's all about the Bee-eaters and can I take the chance of leaving it another week or do I go tomorrow?

I guess I'll have one eye on the forecast for the rest of the day and then decide which way the scales are thing I do know is that Cornwall is sadly just too far.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Spotted Crake at Twitch-well


I debated going down south for the Bee-eaters today but the forecast for Norfolk looked much better so I headed up there with the Jims at the crack of dawn pulling into the car park at Twitchwell before 7am.
We headed down to Island hide and spotted the Spotted Crake walking the reed border before we'd even got down the ramp. It showed really well but failed to come out into the light so any photographs were going to be difficult.  The bird showed real spirit as it challenged any bird brave enough to get close including a juvenile Water Rail that tricked a few into thinking two Crakes had arrived.

Spotted Crake always in the shadow
Also on Freshmarsh was a cracking Wood Sandpiper showing down to a few feet but again with the sun right behind it photographs were a challenge. Godwits, Avocet, Turnstone, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, LRP Spoonbill, Dunlin, Redshank, Lapwing, Curlew, Common Tern and Wagtails made up the rest of the pickings from Island Hide. As we walked down to Parinder three Marsh Harrier flew along in the distance and Hirundines gathered in ever increasing numbers. A Shelduck begged me to pap it so I obliged before leaving for a walk to the beach were 13 Eider had gathered close in and a few Gannets hunted on the horizon. The walk back gave good views of a Chinese Water Deer and a family of Red-crested Pochard.

Chinese Water Deer
We drove down to Cley where we scanned North Scrape for the reported Temminck's Stint.
I found a fine Curlew Sandpiper and a summer plumage Knot before glimpsing the Stint but it vanished as quick as I'd got on it. The Dunlin took flight and a small bird joined them which I also thought was the Stint but again it all happened a bit quick and when the Dunlin settled the small guy was still missing. Scanning further away I picked up a few Green Sandpiper which pleased Jim as he'd been hoping for one today still needing it for a year tick.

Curlew Sandpiper

We had thoughts of looking for the Pratincole at Ouse but the clock beat us and it'll have to wait for another day.

Year list now 236

Monday, 28 July 2014

Bee-eaters breeding in the UK again

Just got home to see news that the Black-winged Pratincole has not been seen at all today at Ouse Wash so I may have missed the boat on that one but perhaps it's working it's way south as I type?

Anyway happier news has arrived in the fact that a pair of Bee-eaters have nested and are thought to be feeding young on the Isle of White.

The species has nested here before with the first attempt being made in Scotland way back in 1920 but breeding failed. In 1955 Three pairs nested in East Sussex raising seven young between them and in Durham back in 2002 a watch point was set up at a nest site and an estimated 15000 people visited as the pair raised two young. In 2005 a nest was predated by foxes in Herefordshire and the last other known attempt was in Dorset in 2006 but this attempt also failed.

So news today of the Isle of Wight nest site is exciting. The pair are nesting on the Wydcombe Estate and it is assumed the young have already hatched but numbers are not yet known. The national Trust have set up a wardened view point so people can enjoy the birds and expect the young to leave the nest in the next couple of weeks. The birds should hopefully hang around until late August at least so a visit will be on the cards which may help me finally put a tick against this cracking visitor and a breeding bird would be that little bit more special.

Watch this space!