Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Sparrowhawk in the garden

So I'm still watching the daily updates from Bempton and the Green Warbler is still there and giving itself up to most birders that can be bothered to go for it. For some reason I haven't managed to work up the appetite to travel for it which wasn't helped by the first day stories of the crowds, tape luring, encroachment and general poor behaviour and it's just not exciting me in the same way the Albert did. The year has been strange to say the least but the bird is a real rarity and may yet pull me towards the twitch if it continues to hang around but if I'm honest I'm half hoping it moves on to save me the stress of deciding if I do or don't want to see it. 

Anyway to take my mind off the little Green Warbler I've been doing some garden work like cleaning the block pavers and repointing the Indian stone etc and as I stood admiring my work from the kitchen window today I spotted a couple of Magpies alarm calling and assumed a cat was nearby but as I opened the back door I could see they were letting everybody know I had a Sparrowhawk in the garden.
The young hawk had caught a Collared Dove and over the next hour sat at the bottom of the garden and ate the entire catch. Using the cover of shrubs I managed to grab some shots as it consumed it's prey.

I went in and left the bird to finish it's meal but a few hours later it came back and just sat on my fence wings hanging trying to dry out from the heavy rain we've had all day. Again I managed to open a window and grab a couple of images.

A very nice consolation prize for staying home.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Another Wryneck at Wanstead

I was minding my own business yesterday when news came out of a Wryneck at Wanstead so I called the Jims and ten minutes later picked them up and headed to Wanstead to find that the bird had just flown. We searched in vain for the Wryneck with no joy but did manage to get the Jims a couple of year ticks with a Spotted Flycatcher at the end of Long wood and two Pied Flycatchers in the birches. A fly over juvenile Cuckoo, two Whinchats and at least three Wheatears made it an enjoyable walk even without the target and it's always nice bumping into the patch workers at Wanstead for a catch up.

Fresh from yesterdays dip I woke this morning and drove back over to Wanstead on a solo run and found a small gathering at the end of Long wood. Marco had just seen the Wryneck so it was now a waiting game. In the next four hours the bird showed briefly on five or six occasions always a little distant but gave decent views through the bins even if it was just out of reach of my 400mm lens. (see heavily cropped evidence below) The juvenile Cuckoo made another fly past and a Spotted Flycatcher performed for a while along with the Wheatears. 


One of those really elusive Wrynecks

Nice to bump into Mike and Paul from the Lee Valley who I hadn't seen for a while along with a few of the locals who are always welcoming to us "good bird" invaders to their patch. I just missed the six Curlew which I'm told are rarer than Wrynecks at Wanstead which illustrates well the challenges of patch birding. This was my third Wanstead Wryneck but I've never seen a Wanstead Curlew.

Covid year list now a miserable 218 chasing my worst ever year of 238

Friday, 20 August 2021

Black Stork at Frampton

I was away for a long weekend with my grandson when the Black Stork arrived at Frampton and couldn't believe it was still present on Tuesday when I returned from the family break with zero birding, you heard that right zero birding!

As I've mentioned in previous posts my brother Jim is chasing down his 400th life tick and needed Black Stork for 399 so despite being tired from entertaining my grandson all weekend and the drive home Monday evening I made the call at 10amTuesday having seen the first reports of the bird showing well from the car park and within half an hour we were in the car and on our way. We arrived at 1pm to negative news from the visitor centre but followed the path south to the general area of the last report. As we approached the final bend we picked up the Stork in flight circling quite high and to the south but at least we'd seen it and got the much wanted life tick for the Jims.

Black Stork at Frampton

We walked to the sea wall and located the Stork again in a distant field but as we started to walk closer and again it took flight and this time landed right in the middle of the field by the reservoir at Frampton giving us great scope views before it once again took flight and landed out of view. 

The Pacific Golden Plover didn't show whilst we sat on the bank waiting for an hour but did appear shortly after we'd left and Jim picked up another year tick with a Little Stint. 
We counted seventeen Spoonbill and had a modest total wader count of just fifteen species although we didn't make it all the way around due to arriving late and spending lot's of time on the Stork and PGP.

A decent day out which moved my year list to a miserable Covid restricted 217

Sun flowers at Frampton

Thursday, 5 August 2021

return to Oare

I picked up the Jims today and headed for Oare marsh in Kent hoping they could connect with Napolean for another year. A Hoopoe had spent the day at Oare yesterday but looked to have moved on over night.

On the walk down to Uplees to search for the Hoopoe we enjoyed our first Whinchats of the year and watched a young Cuckoo learning to hunt grubs whilst still begging it's host Meadow Pipit without reward. Four Ringed Plover and thirty plus Curlew were seen and a Yellow Wagtail and Sparrowhawk the only other bird of note before we started the walk back to the slipway.

Juvenile Cuckoo at Oare marsh

At the Slipway a guy put the Jims onto the Bonaparte's gull for their year tick and they managed another first for 2021 when a Curlew Sandpiper dropped in very briefly on the rising tide. Also present were a Knot, Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Black-tailed Godwits plus a Ruff on the flood. A couple of Whimbrel were feeding out on the mud and a group of twelve flew over too bringing the wader count for the day to eleven.  Black-tailed Godwit numbers remain high as does the water level on east flood.

Black-tailed Godwit


Black-tailed Godwit

Godwit over the Swale


Some of the flock of Whimbrel that flew over 

I first saw this returning Bonaparte's Gull at Oare in June 2013 so that's nine years and counting.

Year list now 216

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Minsmere for another fix of birding

I managed to get the Jims up for a day out and we headed to Minsmere as our chosen destination. The A12 was closed and we diverted through Colchester adding about twenty minutes to our journey and arriving around 6.15am to find the car park with just two other cars present. We walked out towards the sea picking up very little along the way. We entered the East hide to find two other birders present but they hadn't seen anything too exciting. One guy pointed out a couple of distant small waders and was pleased when I confirmed one was a Dunlin but the other was a White-rumped Sandpiper. We watched it for a while and it showed pretty much all the time and even moved a little closer but never crossed the midway point. As I was watching a small group of Dunlin I picked up a Pectoral Sandpiper amongst them. We knew the bird was present but had heard it was difficult to find or even see so I was very pleased to find it get everybody else on it and surprisingly it remained in the scope for quite a while. 

White-rumped and Pectoral Sandpiper at Minsmere

From East hide we also enjoyed views of Ruff, two Green Sandpipers and four Common Sandpipers, Dunlin, Avocet, Blackwits, Spotted Redshank, Turnstone and Ringed Plovers. As well as the waders the flood held a few feral Geese, large numbers of Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls.

Black-tailed Godwit

Juvenile Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern


Spotted Redshank

We walked on the the public hide and from here we found another year tick with a juvenile Arctic Tern amongst the large numbers of Common, Little and Sandwich Terns.  Among the Terns were a couple of Little Gulls and we found another Green Sand, a Bar-tailed Godwit and another Spotted Redshank making it three for the day.

A lovely morning adding just three year ticks but really enjoyable to to be out and birding with the nice bonus of having a good chat with the guy that found last years Sooty Tern at Minsmere. I jokingly thanked him for costing me about six hours of my life as I dipped it at Sizewell. We left at lunchtime as the tourists arrived with the hides filling with young enthusiastic (noisy) children and people were actually  waiting for our space in the car park with it now full.

Year list now 215

Cracking day at Oare

I woke early on Sunday and decided I'd make the short run down to Oare hoping to be back by lunchtime to allow me to keep my family commitments for the afternoon.

I hadn't checked the weather and on arrival at 6am it was raining quite heavy and I was the only person on site for a while so I parked up by east flood and scanned the water where I quickly found the returning Bonaparte's Gull in the distance before it flew closer to rest with a group of Black-headed and Med Gulls.

Bonaparete's Gull at Oare marsh 1st August 2021

A Great Egret hunted with Grey Heron and Little Egret and a Barn Owl quarted the fields in the rain. Turtle Dove could be heard but remained distant specks. Ten Avocet, around a hundred Black-tailed Godwit, eight Lapwing, two Redshank and a Ruff made a small wader count in the deeper than usual water with no exposed mud or shingle island putting off the small waders you'd usually find at this time of year. A Green Sandpiper flew over but didn't stop as if to underline the point of the water level. I guess those in charge at KWT have a plan for the reserve but I remember visiting last year when it was dry as a bone and it seems to me they are struggling to find the correct levels. The Black-tailed Godwit numbers did swell during the morning and I'd guess around 400 were present in the roost before I left.

Some of the hundreds of Blackwits present

As the rain stopped another couple of birders arrived and it turned out they were from the states. I helped them locate the American gull and they were happy to also see Med Gull before I moved on to walk the wall to the sea wall hide where I found a reeling Gropper which is a first for me at Oare. Looking at the bird distantly through the scope it looked very scruffy and mono toned and did have me considering Savi's. I pointed the bird out to the other eight visitors for the morning and all seemed to be happy with Gropper but I did leave with that little nagging doubt. At the hide I found my first autumn Wheatear and as I returned to the slipway another birder asked if I'd seen Napolean today and as I was explaining it was resting on the flood when I left it flew over my head and landed on the mud so I was able to get him onto it and I managed to get all the other guys onto it too with some struggling more than others to keep on it. A Greenshank dropped in and Turnstone, Curlew and Oystercatcher took the wader count to just nine for the day. Little Terns fished close in on the early high tide and I noted Sandwich and Common Terns also in a very enjoyable five hours birding.


Year list now 212.

Barn Owl

Black-tailed Godwits

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte's Gull

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Back in the game

I haven't been birding since my trip to Bempton at the end of June so today I made a solo run to Snettisham. I arrived at 7am with high tide due at 8am but on arrival all the birds had already roosted on the pits but somebody had reported the Western Sandpiper (which was my target) at 6.40am although it hadn't been seen since. I picked up a year tick with my first Sanderlings of the year as I scanned the few Dunlin still on the mud. As birds started to return to the mud around 9.30am I picked out a Little Stint and Garganey whilst searching for the Sandpiper and around 10am as around thirty of us scanned the mud the shout went up "got it!" I moved up to get directions and very quickly was watching my second ever Western Sandpiper following the 2011/12 Cley bird.

Western Sandpiper at Snettisham

Also at Snettisham lots of Little, Common and Sandwich Terns, a couple of Whimbrel, three Turtle Dove plus thousands of Knot. Hundreds of Oystercatchers and Godwits with the odd Turnstone. I picked up a couple of Med Gulls but couldn't find the reported Black or Roseatte Terns.

Following my early success I moved on to Frampton being just 25 miles out of my way and as I parked up I was put straight onto the Pacific Golden Plover but had better views later on as I got to the sea wall where I also had good views of Short-eared Owl, Marsh Harrier and Peregrine. My walk around the reserve gave up Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpipers, Greenshank, Spoonbills and many other good birds but I failed to find the reported Whinchat which I still need for a year tick.

Pacific Golden Plover


Year list now 211