Sunday, 26 October 2014

Wallasea island

With a promise to be home early today (ruling out the trip to Holkham for Surf Scoter) I made the short trip to Wallasea Island in Essex. Arriving at 6am just as the sun came up I was hoping for some Owl activity but sadly in four hours on site no Owls where seen. Our first birds of note were several Kestrels hunting the fields and then the Brent Geese woke and flew along the sea wall. A Grey Heron called and then a Male Marsh Harrier came into view. A stunning adult bird with an all white tail. This bird was joined by a female and juvenile as the morning went on. Two Peregrines came over the sea wall and gave a good display as they hunted in partnership.

Hen Harrier at Wallasea Island


Then we spotted a ring-tailed Hen Harrier which was later joined by a second smaller bird and they hunted together along the ditches of the far side of the field moving large numbers of Linnet, Skylark and Corn Bunting as they went about their search. A couple of Stonechat, a few Little Egret and a pair of Stonechat added to our list for the day along with big movements of Starling and Wood Pigeon.

Adult male Marsh Harrier 
A juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard has been seen in the area but not today.

A cracking morning with great views of some stunning raptors will live long in the memory and the absence of  Owls today will drag me back for another go very soon.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Another notable

Birdguides awarded me a notable flag today for this weeks Cattle Egret shot.
It's always nice to get a little recognition.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cattle Egret and LEO in Kent

The day started with us stood by the fishing boats at Dunge in strong wind and rain. Lot's of Gannets fishing, Great Crested Grebes on the sea, Kittiwakes and Sandwich Terns moving through, a distant Bonxie following a ship and both adult and Juvenile Arctic Skua coming right in to the tide line. Lot's of Goldfinch flocks around and good migration of Starlings. A few Common Scoter flew west and Turnstones ran along in front of us. Lot's of gulls feeding on the incoming tide but nothing of note.In the trapping area I noted four Ring Ouzel and a couple of Stonechat but little else worth a mention here.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret
Back at the RSPB reserve we found a drive by Great White Egret before pulling over at the farm track to view the heard of Cows hoping for a year tick in the form of the now seemingly resident Cattle Egret. After a brief wait with no sign I noticed the bird pop up out of the reeds briefly giving us hope. Shortly after the bird took flight and ended sitting on a cow and although distant the camera came out to grab a few shots...(lot's of shots).

Cattle Egret
The Egret was harassed non stop by a small gathering of Magpies but held it's own and defended the cow as it's territory.

Get off my cow!
We moved towards home but made a quick stop at Elmley where we eventually found a Long-eared Owl in the orchard area. I tried to grab a shot but it was in thick cover so the result wasn't great...(understatement!)
Wheatear, lot's of Curlew & Lapwings plus Skylark and Marsh Harrier added to a decent days total.

Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier
Year list now: 259

Sunday, 12 October 2014

You can't beat a good Shrike

And this was a really good fact a really good pair of Shrikes!

We set off to North Norfolk at 5.15am this morning arriving in the car park at Burnham Norton just after 7am. It was still misty and the sun was only just coming up as we walked along the track towards the sea wall. Straight away we were looking at the Steppe Grey Shrike and as we walked on we got even better views of this stunning and charming visitor. (A first for Norfolk and a first for me too!) Somebody had put out a pot of mealworms for the bird which kept it coming to our end of the field. (I'm not sure I agree with feeding vagrants like this but I guess that's a debate for another time)

Steppe Grey Shrike at Burnham Norton
The Southern Grey Shrike at Burnham Norton
Check out the white in the wings
The bird performed really well and we left more than satisfied with the start to our day.

Next stop was the car park of Birds Eye Frozen foods at Ness Point Lowestoft where we again struck gold parking up and seeing the Red-backed Shrike without even leaving the car. This bird was even more charming than the previous and we enjoyed it's company from the comfort of the car for an hour or more as it feasted and drank from the puddles in the car park.

Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike at Ness Point
Red-backed Shrike
RB Shrike
We got wind of a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers showing a couple of miles away at Gunton so headed off to try for them. On arrival all we found was a Treecreeper which has been reported by the locals as a possible Northern. It did look frosty but I'll leave it to the smarter brains to decide if it has Northern roots. We failed to find either YBW although one was heard.
Heading back down the A12 I decided on a quick stop at Minsmere to round our day off. We made our way to Bittern Hide where we found the Little Crake showing as we entered the hide. The guy that put us on it had been waiting several hours and there we were on it in seconds.....what a day!

Poor record shot of the Little Crake

Year list is now 256
Life list now 349 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Masked Shrike at Spurn

As readers of my mutterings here will know I don't twitch over two hours so with the cracking find at Spurn last week of a Masked Shrike I've been hoping it stuck around knowing I would be in Yorkshire for a conference on 29th. I travelled up yesterday morning in the fog hoping that would have kept the bird down over night and on arrival at the car park I was informed the bird was indeed still present. A short walk up the lane opposite and a small gathering soon put me onto this little Shrike vagrant as it hunted along the hedge line at the rear of the fields. I took a record shot and watched the bird feed for a while before setting off up the road for Canal Scrape where I found eight Snipe feeding before eventually locating a Jack Snipe hidden in the short grassy bank. The bird was hidden as it roosted but as soon as it started bobbing it gave itself up.

Masked Shrike (small white patch centre of photograph.....honest!)
Jack Snipe
Jack Snipe
Common Snipe
Common Snipe
Next I took a drive back up Easington Road hoping for a little inspiration in my search for Common Rosefinch and at the end of the road I noticed three birders scoping a field. As I approached to ask if they had anything the man (with his wife and son) said he thought he might have a Richard's Pipit and sure enough once in the scope I could concur and we put the news out of his find to the delight of the other birders on Spurn who soon gathered to see the bird.

My search then took me back up to the car park where another wander up the small lane opposite gave me brief views of the Common Rosefinch before it flew off in the company of several Greenfinch. Time for another half an hour with the Shrike before heading off to my meeting.

This was my first trip to Spurn (being well outside my two hour rule) but if ever I'm back in Yorkshire I'll be sure to pay another visit as this one gave me a lifer and four year ticks. The only disappointment was that I arrived just after a Little Bunting had been ringed and released.

Year list now 254
Life list now 347

Sunday, 28 September 2014

London Nightjar

We headed down to Dunge this morning hoping to find some migrants etc.
Arriving at 7am we headed for the sea where it was bright and calm which obviously meant the birds were not great. We picked up a Kittiwake, some Gannets, Sandwich and Comic Terns along with the usual gulls.
What appeared to be a juvenile Yellow-legged was also on the beach roost and a Seal popped it's head up out by the buoy.
House Sparrow
Moving quickly to the bushes between the lighthouse and the bird observatory we located stacks of Chiffchaff and good numbers of Blackcap. A Common Whitethroat popped up and we found a couple of Black Redstart in the cottage garden. Raven flew over along with Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.
Mipits were being caught in the traps and the volume of Pied Wags had risen but little else was noted here.

Black Redstart
Along the track to the reserve we found Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechats, Lesser Whitethroats and a Marsh Harrier. As the Harrier came over eleven Snipe were flushed and flew over with Curlew.

Marsh Harrier

At Galloways we found a pair of Whinchat more Stonechats and another Wheatear.
On the drive home news broke of a Nighjar showing at Middlesex Filter Beds so we stopped off to take look. We parked in the Nature reserve car park on Lea Bridge road at Essex Filter Beds and walked along the side of the river. As we entered Middlesex Filter Beds we could see a small gathering and were quickly and enthusiastically put onto the bird. Jim had taken his scope and lot's of Sunday strollers enjoyed great views of the little guy roosting. He woke a couple of times looked at the gathering, shuffled to get comfortable and then went back to sleep. A very nice bird to see during the day beating my previous night time experiences with these wonderful birds.

Nightjar in London
Hackney Marsh......not where you'd expect to find a Nightjar!

A decent day with some good birds seen well even if no ticks were made today.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Gulling at Cromer

Leggy juvenile
A real brute in every sense of the word


So a short stop at Cromer this morning gave me a gull list of Caspian, Yellow-legged, Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed, Common and Black-headed  I would suggest anybody with a little spare time in North East Norfolk take the time to visit the boat ramp area east of the pier and just wait for the gulls to come and go there.

I also stopped at Winterton on the way home too but couldn't find the Greenish Warbler although did get a very short possible view and heard what I thought was a Firecrest but my hearing is less reliable these days so I couldn't be sure.
I did see four Stonechat and two Wheatear on the walk down and back though.