Thursday, 22 April 2021

A few common firsts

 A trip to Abberton and Old Hall marshes in the week produced a few expected additions to the year list.

First off was a Green Sandpiper that I flushed from LDLH causeway where a pair of LRP have set up territory. A Kingfisher was seen from LB causeway and a Black Swan was with the large herd of Mutes. Two Nightingale sang and showed briefly along the old road where I also picked up my first Willow Warbler of the year. I heard a distant Cuckoo then saw it when it flew into trees along the edge of the reserve. Six Common Tern were seen in difficult conditions with the early mist.

Little-ringed Plover at Abberton

Old Hall is only three miles from Abberton and as I parked the car I enjoyed views of Barn Owl that was later to be seen on a couple of other occasions. A Cuckoo called and I added Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone and Spotted Redshank to the year list. Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and my first Reed Warblers were all encountered walking around along with numerous Cetti's and some Reed Buntings but surprisingly I still didn't hear or see any Bearded Tits despite the calm warm weather. Back at the car park I saw a Stoat cross the field which scattered a large Linnet flock.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Reed Bunting

On Tuesday I managed to see the three Black-necked Grebes that spent a couple of hours resting on Roding Valley Lake which is a first for me on the lake. It's hard to think it was around forty years ago that I used to windsurf on the very same lake shortly after it was built as part of the M11 gravel excavations and my parents home is only a few yards from the path to the lake. The Grebes left overnight.

Black-necked Grebes at Roding Valley

The weed dance


Today I walked Gunpowder and found an influx of Common Whitethroat and a single Sedge Warbler before heading of to Fishers Green where I found a pair of Nightingales by the gate to the power station. Although very vocal they are difficult to see although with patience they can be seen if they're given some space. Hobby, Swift and Arctic Tern have all been reported in the valley this week but I saw none today. I'll try again tomorrow.

Year list now 162

Saturday, 17 April 2021

White Stork at Hall marsh scrape

A White Stork was seen late on Wednesday evening at Hall marsh scrape and it was too late for me to make the short journey but on Thursday I was on site as is usual very early at first light and the Stork was still there having roosted on the marsh. The bird was un-ringed but does have some damage to one wing which looks to have been clipped at some point. Whatever the credentials it was lovely to see such a smart bird on the marsh and it'll form part of my years list noted to reflect the likely hood of it being an escaped or released bird. (I'm a bit fussier with life ticks 👀)

White Stork

White Stork

White Stork

Cetti's Warbler

The Garganey sleeping 

The Garganey remains on site and a White-fronted Goose was noted by a visitor but I haven't noticed this bird as of yet. I'll look harder on my next visit. Lot's of Sedge and Cetti's Warblers now singing along with the many Whitethroat, Blackcaps and Chiffchaff but I'm still to hear a Willow Warbler.

Year list now 152

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Finally had a day at the coast

My last visit to Dungeness was August 11th last year so I've been waiting for these latest restriction easing measures and today I made the trip down the M20 to see the sea.

The patch

I stood on the shingle bank next to the hide, four locals had positioned themselves in front of the hide so I kept a good distance away from them and the hide and started to scan the sea in anticipation.

Lot's of Gannets were immediately apparent and were a very welcome sight. A few Porpoise arched out of the waves and a number of Great crested Grebes and Cormorants sat on the water. My first Brent Geese of the year came flying through followed by many more groups in the couple of hours watching. Common Scoters came through in varying sized flocks and the Iceland Gull dropped to the patch with the crowd of mixed gulls. Sandwich Terns flew up and down constantly and a couple of Common Tern were seen flying up one being mobbed by a pale phased Arctic Skua. Red-throated Divers flew in both directions but quite distant and a single Great northern Diver flew high down the point. 

On the way out I saw both Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail and on news from the locals I drove down to Greatstone-on-sea where I found a Treecreeper which is far from common here. The locals excitedly checked it for Short-toed but alas it was a Common Treecreeper but I picked up a couple of tips on ID for the future should I ever bump into a Short-toed. We eventually found the male Pied Flycatcher and enjoyed singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaff.

On the reserve I saw the Glossy Ibis in flight away in the distance behind Cookes Pool and had lot's of singing Cetti's and Sedge Warbler but still no Bearded Tits. A Bittern boomed whilst I was sitting waiting for Beardies and a pair of Raven flew over kronking away.

It was great to be on the the estate at Dunge today and I really hope it's not eight months before I get to see it again.

year list now 151

Monday, 12 April 2021

Recovering those missed lockdown opportunities

 On 14th February I wrote about the missed opportunities lockdown had produced this year.

They included the over wintering Social Lapwing in Cornwall. This bird was last reported on 20th February so looks like I've missed my chance to see it.

I also mentioned the Devon Mockingbird. Well the bird hung around until the government allowed us to travel again so I was fortunate to add this to my life list and picked up a bonus lifer in Cornwall on the same day with the American Herring Gull.

The White-throated Sparrow that was seen in Kent and suppressed moved to East Sussex and although reported during lockdown was quickly suppressed to stop the temptation for people to travel during lockdown. As lockdown was released the bird moved to a more public area and news was again released so I managed to recover this tick which was great. 

I missed the Warwickshire Bufflehead due to travel restrictions and the Kent Eyebrowed Thrush that was suppressed during the lockdown despite being present from 14th January until 3rd March.

Other birds I may have travelled for outside of lockdown include Black Scoter and Pacific Diver although the Diver in Cornwall has only been reported once this year.

All in all a decent recovery from lockdown with three life ticks so far this April.



White-throated Sparrow

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Rainham Ring Ouzel

Another Sunday morning walk at Rainham and again just the river wall. I found a Ring Ouzel on my early walk and again Cetti's and Sedge Warblers were singing along the route. Last weeks Whitethroat has been joined by more birds now too. On the river Common Terns were seen feeding and a Yellow Wagtail was heard to fly over. On the tip I found a male and two female Wheatear and a few Skylarks. 

A decent walk giving up a couple more year ticks in this strangest of years.

Year list now 143

Tomorrow we take another step out of lockdown and edge closer to the new normal.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

White-throated Sparrow

News filtered through Thursday evening that the East Sussex White-throated Sparrow was still around this had me contemplating a twitch. This bird has been around a few weeks but the locals had asked that it be suppressed due to lockdown guidance and intrusion as it was in a private garden and even during lockdown was attracting lots of attention. Move on a few weeks and we now find ourselves slowly moving out of lockdown measures and the bird has also moved to a public park so the locals have now put out the news of its continuing stay. Some people are moving out of lockdown faster than others and I'm keen to find a balance between acting responsibly and looking after that much talked about mental health benefit of this hobby we share.

As I went to bed I wasn't committed to going for the Sparrow. The Jims were going to travel for the Mockingbird should it be reported so I went to bed thinking if they go I might meet them there then go for the Sparrow. Upon checking the mornings news the Mocking bird had not been seen but the Sparrow had then I saw a great image of the bird and that was it I was in the car and on the way down the M23 in no time at all. The Jims decided against making the trip.

Arriving at the recreation ground I parked up in the small car park and walked to the bottom of the park finding a couple of other birders but the bird hadn't been seen since that very early sighting as it left the roost. Suddenly a very keen eyed sixteen year old birder picked up the bird and managed to get us on it. We watched it move through the trees for around ten minutes before losing it and we didn't pick it up again in the following couple of hours before I left. A stunning bird and really nice to get out and see some like minded people. It was especially pleasing to see the young lad enjoying the hobby and we have to remember we all started young and some of us are lucky enough to grow old. 

The other good news was that I was home in time to make Suzannes lunch. 

This April unlike the last has been kind to me with three American vagrant life ticks thus far.

White-throated Sparrow (there will ne better images but this is my only effort)

Barcombe recreational park

Barcombe allotments

Monday sees a further easing of lockdown restrictions and we can then stay overnight again so maybe I'll be able to book a week away at some point soon but the biggest hurdle for me is to get the Jims back in the car with me so they too can enjoy these new birds and some proper coastal birding again. I'm also hoping Scotland and Wales will soon open up to English birders again.

Year list now 140

Life list now 421

Lakenheath Sea Eagle

I decided to take a break from the Lee Valley CP today and headed to Lakenheath for a change of scenery. The reserve is open but the hides and shop are still closed. I walked up to the Washland viewpoint but couldn't find anything of note. On the next pool I found two drake Garganey six Avocet and three Redshanks. A Barn Owl was seen quartering the fields and as I walked along I saw a couple of Marsh Harrier and then a single Bittern flew up and back down into the reeds. I reached Joist Fen and was told by the volunteering work party that one of the IOW Sea Eagles had roosted over night and hadn't yet left. I waited for about thirty minutes before continuing east on my long walk along the public footpath. 

About 200 yards into the extended walk I had Common Crane and then noticed a lot of excitement towards the far end of the reed bed and sure enough the cause of that was the Sea Eagle ( yes I'm counting it on my year list for now 😉) leaving the roost. It flew high and over my head, crossing the river and then heading north over the farm. I turned to get the work party on it but they had left moments before. Introduced or not it's still a spectacular sight. There was no sign of the presumed escaped White Stork that's been hanging around for a month now and surprisingly I didn't see or hear a single Bearded Tit. 

On the way home I added Stone Curlew and Wheatear at Cavenham. Here I also saw Woodlark, Skylark and Stonechat. A nice day out with the added joy of finally connecting with one of the introduced Eagles after missing one that flew over the Lee Valley earlier this week.

A White tailed sea Eagle



Sea Eagle over Lakenheath

Year list now 140

NB: I reported the Eagle sighting to the IOW team and it appears to be a female from 2020 numbered G466 and she's now on the east Norfolk coast (Saturday)