Wednesday 6 December 2023

A morning in the valley

Needed some me time this morning so headed over to Fishers Green, Lee Valley and plotted up at the Bittern hide where it was cold and very misty first thing. The Bittern popped out around 8am and allowed me to fire off a couple of shots before it ran back into the reeds from which it had came from and wasn't seen again all morning apart from for a couple of guys up in the tower that could see it hidden away at the back of the reedbed. A Grey Heron spent a while resting on the Kingfisher bank and had a little go at fishing from the log until it fell off. A drake Goosander flew over and was later seen out on the main lake and at least four Water Rail entertained the tour group that arrived around 9.30am as did the noisy Parakeets.

A walk along the river gave views of Kingfisher, Sparrowhawk and a flock of Redwings before a fly over Raven and Red Kite ended the mornings birding.

No year ticks today so I'm still hoping for six to avoid my lowest ever year of listing. (But I'm not trying very hard if truth be told, chosing time with the grandkids ahead of most days out)

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Grey Phalarope at KGV reservoir

 A quick walk around KGV reservoir yesterday delivered a nice bonus year tick with a Grey Phalarope seen on North basin. The Red-necked Grebe was very distant and we noted a few Goldeneye and Goosander but little else of note yet this winter although a Scaup was seen by others we didn't pick it out on our walk but we did year tick Harry which was good.  This Phalarope is I think my first on the reservoir since 2017.

My quest to beat my worst ever year list of 238 continues and I now need just six in December to match that total so it remains a possibility despite me not putting in too much effort.

year list now 232

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Dipping the Pallid Swift

Yesterday was the first full day I had spare that I could take the Jims for a crack at the Pallid Swift lingering for twelve days at Winterton. The Jims need the bird for a life tick so were keen to go but life had got in the way for all of us until yesterday and even that was far from comfortable with my daughter in law being rushed to hospital for an operation on a detached retina an having that on my mind whilst out birding was less than ideal but I'm pleased to say the operation appears to have gone well and she's now back home.

We landed at the car park in Winterton village at first light and scanned the skies for over two hours with no joy. It appears the Swift has moved south or maybe met a sad end through lack of food and plummeting temperatures. It was bitter cold today for sure. During our watching the skies we encountered thousands of Pink-feet Geese and some movement of winter thrushes but the best bird was a Woodcock that flew over the park. As the cold started getting into my bones I called off the search and we headed for the warmth of the car as we drove down to Filby broad which was only a few miles away.

At Filby we scanned both bodies of water finding two Kingfisher before a single Scaup amongst the Tufted Duck on Ormesby Little broad. On Filby broad we eventually located two Fudge ducks along with many Tufted ducks a few Pochard and five Goldeneye before again the cold weather had us retreating to the warmth of the car. 

Our next stop was Ness Point at Lowestoft where we worked hard to eventually find six Purple Sandpipers on the concrete below the caravan park along with an Oystercatcher and six Turnstone. Being two miles from a reported forty Waxwing we couldn't head home without checking them out too.

The day added two year ticks bringing my struggling 2023 year list 231 and now just seven below my worst ever year list total........can I get there or will 2023 be a new low?

Monday 20 November 2023

Wallasea Island Owls

With the Jims still looking to year tick Short-eared Owl I invited them to join me on Friday for an afternoon at Wallasea Island. It had rained Wednesday and Thursday so my thinking was with Friday being dry and with very little wind it would be a good day to see Owls and we weren't to be disappointed.

Arriving about 1pm we walked out towards the hide and spotted our first Owl around 1.30pm, then a young Hen Harrier flew over followed by another Owl then another. The Owl action continued without break until we left at about 3.30pm as the sun had dropped by then. We'd seen at least eight Short-eared Owls in the air at one time so I'd guess there's probably double that wintering on the Island. The Ring-tail Harrier did a few loops of the whole marsh showing itself several times. Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk added to the raptor count and the waders were kept active by the constant fly overs but the reward for the visit was without doubt the volume of Owls on show. A male Hen Harrier was reported but sadly wasn't seen by us.

Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier

Short-eared Owl

Sunday 12 November 2023

Canvasback at Abberton

With news coming out too late yesterday for me to get to Abberton I called the Jims and arranged a trip this morning. We arrived at first light and quickly checked Layer Breton causeway on our way through but with no Pochard present we drove around to Layer-de-le Haye causeway and found about fifty or so birders lining the causeway scanning a small flock of Pochard between the causeways. With no sign of the Canvasback and seemingly nobody checking the farm or Wigborough Bay we decided to try those areas. The bay was very quiet with no ducks present so we headed back down to the farm and followed four other like minded souls upto the hide where we found a large flock of Pochard but they were mobile close to the shore and obscured by vegetation on the banks. The flock seemed to be drifting right then back left with our only chance of seeing the bird being if it drifted into view we set up scopes and started to scan and got our reward as it came into view briefly. The guy next to me put the news out so those on the causeway could join us and we set about getting more views. Walking back down the path and scanning gave us another couple of views and enabled us to pick out the ID features. The bird appeared paler than the Pochard on occasions but depended on the light and the angle of the bird, the head was distinctive as was the all dark sharper sloping bill.

The bird drifted out of view and remained out of site for about forty minutes which was our signal to leave.

Canvasback has been on my radar for years now, knowing that Abberton has previous I always imagined it would be Abberton that provided me with the tick and so it looks to have proved.

Previous accepted records for Canvasback are.........

1996 Cliffe Pools Kent with the first record for Britain on 7th December only

1997 Wissington Beet factory, Norfolk.21st January - 10th March (returned to winter again on 3rd December staying until 9th March 1998. (Presumed same bird at Abberton in Essex on 23rd, 24th and 30th November.)

1999 Abberton in Essex. 6th to 16th April presumed to be the same bird as 1997/98 above

1999 - 2000 Abberton in Essex 8th November 1999 to 15th February 2000 (Presumed same bird as above)

1999 Monks Wall Kent. 28th May

2000-2001 Abberton in Essex 12th November 2000 to 13th February 2001 presumed same as previous and also seen at Ardleigh reservoir on 29th November.

2000 Par Cornwall 19th April only

2000 - 2001 Lade Gravel pits Kent. 29th January 2000 to 14th March 2000 and 18th November 2000 to 8th March 2001

2000 Orkney 21st to 23rd June

2002 Pennington Flash Greater Manchester 11th to 30th July and the last accepted record before todays pending bird.

no more than seven birds in the above records so and no records for twenty one years so quite to rarity providing a year/Essex and lifer tick.

Year list now 229.   life list now 446. Essex list now 277

Monday 6 November 2023

Arctic Tern at KGV v

Popped over the local reservoir with Jim today and picked up a late year tick when we found a juvenile Arctic Tern still present hunting over the causeway between the basins. There were at least ten Goosanders and a drake Goldeneye and we spotted a Peregrine on the pylons. A Sparrowhawk flew in and sat on the bank to watch the Tern fly by with the Tern actually sitting on the bank a couple of feet from the Sprawk at one time.

The numbers of Tufted Duck and Coot are climbing and there's a few Gadwall, Mallard and Pochard present along with both  Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebes but little else of note on this visit.

Year list now 228 and just ten off that worst ever year I've started to chase to get me out a bit more.

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Canada Geese

Canada Geese