Saturday 31 March 2012


Where do I begin?...the text to Jimmy on Friday night, usual routine and about the extent of our planning. "Jim I'm going to try for the Yellowthroat in Wales tomorrow" Jimmy "what time are we leaving?" ME "5am" Jimmy " see you then"...that's how we operate...I tell him where we're going and he says great and off we go. So we set off for Gwent leaving Loughton at 5am for the 180 mile trip for this wee visitor from the states. We arrived at 7.30am and after asking a local dog walker for directions we were on our way up the hill. Once at the top of the hill we were greeted by three guys from Hull (they'd left home at 3am) They had seen the bird in question already but it was no longer in view. After half an hour of searching we relocated it and it showed really well (186) as we were joined by a couple from Oxford and a couple of guys from's the real deal this bird! After a couple of hours on the hill we headed back to the car for a coffee break and decided to try for the Lesser Scaup at Cosmerton Lake.
Lesser Scaup
We stopped on route at a local river and whilst walking the banks we saw a Grey Wagtail (187) my first of the year and I'm well pleased to finally nail this bird and only just in the first quarter.
Further on up the river Jimmy spots Dipper and we enjoy half an hour watching them flying from stone to stone. (188) Back to business and a 15 mile drive down to Cosmerton through Cardiff. We googled the post code on route (great planning I know) and surprisingly we found the lake without issue. On arrival we find that the bird hasn't been posted today in the visitor centre but we're not put off and head for the western lake. On arrival I immediately picked out a Scaup which we nailed down to the Lesser Scaup pictured above. (189) This is all too easy!...where to next Jim?....I know we'll try for the Long Billed Dowitchers at Meare Heath! I tap it in the sat nav OUCH we're 90 miles away. The day is going too well not to give it a after a quick coffee we were off back over the bridge into England and we flew down the M5 to Meare. Again we found the car park straight away and as we took to the path a local birder was returning to his car so we greeted him with that birders special "any sign?" "yes" he says....."they've been missing all day but just dropped back in" Wow..can our luck get any better? We walk the 800 yards to the drained lagoon where they've been seen and sure enough they're there right at the front of the mud bank with a few other waders (Ruff, Redshank, Godwits and Lapwings) Great little birds! (190)
Now the bad news...we have 190 mile drive home.....yep 190 miles! A stop to refuel at burger king Reading and we're home for 5ish just the 12 hours birding today but if that's what it takes to put five on the year list and THREE ON THE LIFE LIST then to coin a phrase......sometimes you just have to go the extra mile. Knackered now tho.
Record shot of Long-billed Dowitchers
Grey Heron
3 months down and I have 190 of my targetted 250 for 2012
60 TO GO.....looking forward to all the summer visitors landing in the next few weeks now.
Oh did I mention the Buzzard count reached 27 for the day!...throw in 4 Red Kites, a couple of Marsh Harriers, several Kestrel and a Sprawk and you have a pretty good raptor count too.

Friday 30 March 2012

30th March Garganey Rainham

Made a pit stop at Rainham on the way back from Hadleigh today. A quick walk around Aveley pool gave distant views of the drake Garganey which stayed mostly hidden in the reeds at the back of the pool. I also picked up a couple of early Little Ringed Plover in front of the new hide (185) On the walk back to the car the local peregrine was seen on the pilons. Lot's of Butterfly about: Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma, Small White and Speckled Wood. add to that the Brimstones had at Thetford last weekend and the year count hits 6. Spoke to Howard on the reserve as we debated the possibility of the earlier reported White Tailed Sea Eagle making it's way over Rainham following it's passgae over Tilbury. Howard was hopeful and said he'd been on watch since it was reported at lunchtime but it wasn't seen. He did say he'd seen an Orange Tip and a Large White though. Still as for the birds I now have 185 as we head into the weekend and who knows what that will bring?

Thursday 29 March 2012

29th March Chase for the Red Breasted Goose

Old Hall Marsh

Tollesbury Wick

Red-breasted Goose
Virgin Balloon
After five trips to Tollesbury and Old Hall Marshes I finally caught up with the Red Breasted Goose that's been over wintering in Essex...The picture of the goose above is from last year as this one was distant and within the large flock of Brent Geese. A lovely couple of hours had at the reserve though with access through the iron gate on Old Hall road and into the car park which is small so parking is by permit only from the warden. A nice walk along the sea wall saw a good count of birds on the visit. Marsh Harrier, several Snipe and waders galore on the estuary with lots of geese and ducks and of course the elusive (well to me it's been elusive) RB Goose. (183) Had to stop on the way out to take a pic of the virgin balloon as it climbed above the village. I Thought I heard Greenshank but can't be sure so that tick will have to wait for another day. It's been a good few days since the weekend....Buzzard circling above the garden and Red Kite over the M1 on a work journey.

Just seen that a couple of Garganey have arrived at Rainham so I'll be putting a quick shift in there tomorrow at some point...strange reserve though Rainham...opens late, shuts early and generally tries to make it hard for you to get in and around it. I missed a Hoopoe last year because they had to close at 5pm....what's that all about?....If you are one of the select few you can have the key code to get in before or after hours which is a bit harsh when something turns up and you can't get in....I realise the need to keep the place secure but it'd be good to get in before 9am being an early bird and all that. (moan over) Anyway I'll still drop in tomorrow to see the Garganey again. There lot's dropping in this week so hoping for a good weekends birding and it'd be great if just one of the Cornwall Hoopoes makes it's way round the coast to be within a couple of hours drive.....fingers crossed!

Still 183 and we're not a quarter of the year down yet so I'm closing in on that 250 but it's still going to be a challenge but one which I'll enjoy though as it's going to take me to places old and new.

Trip to Wales plannned for May and hoping to get a few days in Scotland too if possible in May giving myself every chance of hitting my target. Onwards and Upwards!

Sunday 25 March 2012

24th March In search of Goshawk

Red-tailed Hawk
Lakenheath Fen

(181) I rang Jimmy the night before and uttered the words " Fancy trying for Goshawk in the morning" "Hell yes" came the reply. We left early Saturday morning and cutting through the mist we arrived at Lakenheath at 7am. The reserve was still covered in a thick blanket of mist so we had a quick coffee and headed up the bank for the mile or so walk to Joist Fen. We counted twenty five birds on the way but all were heard only as the mist was so heavy. On arrival we plotted up and waited for the mist to burn off.....which it did!. Lot's of Marsh Harriers and a single Bittern were flying in front of the hide and Bearded Tits showed well quite close "pinging" in chorus. A Cetti's Warbler called and a Water Rail made a brief appearance but we'd stopped here to look for Cranes and in three hours didn't hear or see any. We made our way back to the car had another coffee then made the trip to our Goshawk site in Thetford. Despite taking a wrong turn and adding about twenty miles to the journey we parked up and headed down the lane. At the barn we found Crossbills, Coal Tits and Siskins showing really well so stopped a while to watch them feed and drink. We headed a mile down the track to a clearing in the trees and plotted up with the handful of birders present. "Any sign?" The usual birders greeting...."Not for an hour or so" the usual reply!. We make ourselves comfortable in the knowledge that we're at the right place...the weather is good for the bird we want and the time of day 11AM is also good. Within half an hour we picked up a distant bird which as it gets closer is clearly the escapee Red Tailed Hawk(pictured above) that's been in the area several years, it lands in a nearby tree and gives good views. Three common Buzzard circled over head and a pair of Sprawks displayed giving good size comparison between male and female. A Woodlark flew by giving Jimmy another year tick (I'd had one at Hawkhill and the old man picked up the Woodford bird so Jimmy was pleased with the catch up) At last we get a shout " Goshawk!" and lock on to a bird flying low over the's clearly a Gos. Big muscled bird flying without effort, bulging wings...very pale and it gets better as it sits up on top of a tree in full view...we scope it and despite a little heat haze we get great views! To our delight another bird arrives and they both head seperate ways without giving the display we expected. As they depart another two birders arrive...."any sign?" know the answer! (182) A good day for Butterflies too with Brimstones and Comma in good numbers along with Large white, Red Admiral and Peacock(5)

18th March Dungeness on the hunt for Firecrest

(176) We saw that Firecrest had been arriving in Kent and decided to head to Dungeness to see if we could locate one. Our day started at 5am and we were on the beach at around 6.15am!

We picked up our first Wheatears of the year with six birds found along the road to the lighthouse which we later found out had dropped in that night as none were reported the previous day.
On arrival at the sea watching hide we were lucky to find a local in it and the door for once was open..With a northerly wind there wasn't much happening but we stayed long enough to pick up several Sandwich Terns (177), a couple of Red-throated Divers, lot's of Gannet and hundreds of Brent Geese (one bird had one white wing and looked like a Black Swan as it headed along the coast but was clearly a Brent as it got closer.(strange thing though) We returned to the car for coffee and on the short walk I spotted a Black Redstart on the lighthouse fence. Jim gets another year tick having missed the Rainham bird. We made our way to the Moat and as we crossed the field I saw a small bird flash low across the ground from one bush to another, could it be the little Firecrest we had driven 90 miles for? After a short still, quiet wait it showed itself and it was indeed a fine Orange crested, white eye striped FIRECREST A cracking little bird happily feeding up to move on. We watched it for about 20 minutes before it flew a distance away and continued to the moat. On arrival I picked up another migrant bird which at first I thought was Chiffchaff until it sang and we then ID'd it as Willow Warbler...really early for this bird but once you've seen it and heard have to say that's a Willow Warbler and accept it may be a couple of days ahead of the pack. We find another five Firecrest in the moat area and then a guy arrived to try to trap a couple and he actually got two in the trapping area (with my help) but just as he opened the box the little fellas gave him the slip and made their way out.
As we continued around the moat a Woodcock was flushed and flew over our heads giving great views as it made it's way over the power station. We left for the reserve and found our first Chiffchaffs of the year on the willow trail (where else!) and despite looking for what seemed hours we didn't manage to find any Garganey. Another great days birding at my fav place! (181)

17th March Kumliens at Rainham

(175) We noticed that Dominic Mitchell had located a Kumliens Gull at Rainham yesterday so decided to stay local today and try to find the bird. We made our first stop the Stone Barges (built during the war to secure the route up the Thames into the city of London and now abandoned on the foreshore) On arrival there were gulls everywhere on the bank, on the pier, on the river on the tip and in flight. I quickly homed in on a white winged bird sitting on the rocks in the bay and I called it as an Iceland gull and show the lads what I had. As we're looking at the bird Paul Hawkins arrived and asked if we have anything and then goes on to tell me I actually had the Kumliens Gull and described the dark tail bar and dark wing tips as helpful ID tips. We then located two Iceland gulls. (176) At this point Kumliens gull is listed as Iceland Gull but could well be seperated in the future. We looked for Water Pipit as the guys still needed that for the year but had no luck today. (The barges are usually a good place for these birds but it helps when the tide's out)
A walk along the foreshore didn't help either and no migrants were picked up.  A good day though in which we learnt something new....."You are always learning with this hobby" and no matter what you know there will always be somebody that knows more about a particular location or bird...that much I have learnt!

Saturday 24 March 2012

11th March Green Winged Teal Maldon

(174) I had tried for the Green Winged Teal at Maldon before but dipped. Being local I just had to go back and try again so an early morning trip before work and a short walk from the car park had me pick it up on the river....lovely.  (175 and counting!)

10th March 2012 HAT TRICK DAY

(171) Reports of an adult Rose coloured Starling in Hants have prompted a return visit to the county. We set off at silly o'clock for Hordle and after a short drive around we located the tiny post office were the bird had been reported the previous day. Parked up we're now on foot and decide to split up and use the Iphone to let each other know if we find it. After half an hour I came across it in a tree and set off the alarm and birders come running from all the side roads to get good views as the bird decides to drop into a garden to feed. (Always feels a little wrong on these towny twitches) but a good bird and good views of another lifer! We watch the bird a while longer and then head off for Pagham to give the Paddyfield Warbler another chance. There must be over a hundred birders lined up on the north wall and after three hours nobody has seen it. I see movement and set off the alarm but despite me getting two fleeting views we decide to leave but as I look back the herd of birders are on the move, we return at a pace to get good views of the warbler feeding at last! 4th lifer this year....we set off satisfied but having got directions from another birder we take a chance for Yellow- browed Warbler making the short journey to Worthing to find the Swan Pub. We parked up in a supermarket car park and sat in the park next to the pub and then after a tip off from another birder we raced across the road to get good views of the YBW. Three lifers for the day and five now for the year!
Year list now 173

February 2012

(153) Capel Fleet in Kent delivered a few Corn Buntings and good views of SEO (154) A pitstop at Minsmere on 2nd saw me pick up Marsh Tit on the feeders, Bearded Tit and my first Stonechat of the year (157) 11th Feb we all decided to go for the Paddyfield Warbler at Pagham...a couple of hours drive and 5 hours in a field freezing (minus 12 when we left home) No sign of the warbler but we did pick up Rock Pipt and Common Sandpiper in the harbour and had great views of Black Necked Grebe etc on the sea. We made a short stop at Hayling Island to find a lovely Shore Lark along with Slav Grebe (good views of Mergansers here too) (162) 16th Feb and a quick early morning stop at Wolferton Triangle on the way to Norwich....I mean early too...left home at 5am again but luckily two Golden Pheasants were feeding on the triangle when I arrived...I took advantage and moved on to Titchwell for a quick walk to the beach where I saw  Velvet Scoter. (163) Didn't get out again until 23rd when I had a half hour at the Stone Barges Rainham to bag a Yellow Legged Gull. (164)
23rd...heard about Spoonbill showing at Fingrinhoe so on the way to Colchester I pulled into the car park and was lucky to find it on the marsh without leaving the car...back to work on time despite stopping for 2 SEO's at Abberton. (165) the 24th saw a quick trip to East Hyde where I got Jack Snipe from the bridge without leaving the car and a stop at Lea Valley on the way home saw me get my Bittern at last. (167) Made a trip to Dunwich/Minsmere on 25th and Jimmy located a Dartford Warbler on the heath along with a flushed Woodcock. Had Woodcock on the reserve too along with another G W Egret and Glossy Ibis. We heard about a Hooded Crow very close to Minsmere and headed off in search. After a while looking in the company of Lee Evans again we give up and head for Alton Water to see if we can find the Red Necked Grebe reported there...we're in luck as it shows from the car park and we even get the chance to bag a picture to prove it. (171)

January 2012

Snow Bunting at Salthouse

21st. Mandarin, Green Sandpiper and Siskin

22nd. Stodmarsh for Glossy Ibis, Water Pipit and at last Treecreeper. I made my first trip to Stodmarch for years but I'll get back soon. It was a long walk for the Ibis but at the far end of the reserve two took flight from a ditch and landed close by giving good views.

24th. Stopped at Lynford where I was rewarded with a small flock of Hawfinch from the car.

28th. Up on the coast today to find the Snow Buntings around the car park at Salthouse

29th...last day of the month and I decide to take my bro down to Hants as a birthday surprise...He adds Spanish Sparrow and Dark Eyed Juno to his year and life list....on the drive back I spot Red Kite over the M25 and Ring necked Parakeets in Staines and a stop at Staines reservoir rewards us with Scaup, Gt Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebe.

Total for the month of January now sits at 153..roll on Feb!

17th January Buckenham Marsh Norfolk

Work took me to Norwich today so after leaving home at 5am to get to Norwich I stopped at Dereham road to pick up the Waxwings posted on birdguides yesterday. After a few hours at work I found an hour in the afternoon to make the short trip to Buckenham. I'd picked up a Lesser White Fronted Goose here before Xmas so wanted to see if I could get lucky for the 2012 list.  I had to walk around the reserve but I did locate it and a small group of White-fronted and Barnacle geese added four for the day. On the way home I stopped at Fakenham to try for the Shrike again. I arrived to find a group of birders looking for it and they told me it hadn't been seen for a while so I decided to walk on a bit and to my surprise I found it hovering over some hawthorn bushes so I called the crowd and they all got good views.

Year list now 139

16th January Santon Downham

I was working in Bury today so a quick stop at Santon Downham was always on the cards.
Nuthatch, Blackcap and Lesser-spotted Woodpecker brought my years total to 134 .

15th January Oare Marshes Kent

A drive down to Oare Marsh in Kent today and we picked up a Hen Harrier hunting really close to us and saw Rough-legged and Common Buzzard across the river.
Skylark and Kingfisher brought the year total to 131

11th January and a morning in Hants.

An early morning run down to Hampshire was rewarded with two lifers with Spanish Sparrow and Dark Eyed Junco. The Sparrow appears to have been around for a while as it has hybrid young. It showed really well to the crowd gathered in the gardens. Lee Evans was in attendance along with many faces I've seen around the local patches in Essex. Moving on to Hawkhill Inclosure in the New Forest I located the Junco quickly in flight and again as it came into the trees in front of another crowd of birders. I also bagged Coal Tit, Crossbill, Goldcrest and a Woodlark here too so a new total of 128

8th January Dungeness Kent

An early morning trip to Dungeness (my favourite site for Kent)
I picked up the Jims and headed for the M25 then M20 to arrive nice and early on the coast. A short stay at the point in glorious weather saw us bag the Glaucous Gull and a self found Caspian Gull which was a lifer and impressed the other birders who had arrived on a coach trip and were equally pleased to see both gulls.
Black throated Diver then a single Arctic Skua was good and add to that lot's of Kittiwake and Razorbill and a single Little gull we left satisfied and headed to ARC pit. Here we located the Great White Egret from the road along with Smew. From the hide we picked up the Long Tailed Duck that had been seen a few days earlier and ticked Tree Sparrow from the farm house on the reserve before heading homeward. A short stop at Rainham to show the lads the SEO's was rewarded by Black Redstart (picked up by Nick Croft) Linnet and Ruddy Duck picked up on the way back made the days total 14 and takes the year list to 122

7th January back to Lee Valley

Back over the valley today...I picked up water rail from the Bittern hide (still no Bittern though) Little Owls showed well in the sun from the dead tree on the farm and I also bagged Great-spotted Woodpecker and a nice Cetti's Warbler followed by Bullfinch, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer. (108)

Week one Jan 2012

Back at work and time for birding is limited but I did see Buzzards on the A130 on 3rd, Mistle Thrush and Jay on Hackney Marshes on 4th, Bewick Swan from the causeway at Abberton on my way into Colchester on 5th and stopped at Rainham for two fantastic Short Eared Owls hunting a few feet away.

List total for 2012 is now 101.

2nd January 2012

A quick walk around Lee Valley today produced 4 ticks. Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove), Goosander, Sprawk and Green Woodpecker moved me to (96) No sign of Bittern which would usually be a banker for this site.

Back to work tomorrow!

1st January 2012

January 1st 2012  (And the start of me using the blog as the diary intended)

The start of a new year and a new year list.

A trip to Norfolk is a must to get the year list off to a good start so I picked up the Jims (Dad Jim and brother Jim) and headed up the M11 finding a nice Barn Owl on route as we headed for Titchwell where we picked up an impressive list of 74 other species including Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Diver, a nice early Merlin sitting on the beach, lovely views of spotted Redshank but the real highlight of this first stop off was the tree in the car park that housed Lesser/Common and Arctic Redpoll.

With our count now at 75 we moved on down the A149 and stopped at Brancaster and picked up 3 more with a Ringed Plover, Common Gull and a bonus Purple Sandpiper. Following that we made a short stop at Burnham and whilst checking out the Rough Legged Buzzard we had a Lapland Bunting fly over and a flock of Redwing drop in. Add to that a nice Grey Partridge (82)  and we moved on towards Cley. Along the road to Cley we picked up Kestrel, Pink footed Geese, Egyptian Geese, Red-legged Partridge and Stock Dove. At Cley we were on a mission to locate the visitor from America (The Western Sandpiper) and whilst looking saw a Peregrine take a Lapwing out and a GBB gull pushed us through 89 and then we found the Western Sand and hit 90 for the day.....secretly we all wanted 100 from day one. We heard there was a Shrike at Fakenham and after a quick pied wagtail at Salthouse we moved to Fakenham where we dipped on the shrike but picked up a Starling and Song Thrush. (92) A nice start to 2012. I've set a target of 250 for the year hoping that having the target will get me out and about a bit more.