Monday 30 April 2012

Must be the wrong kind of water

I'm working close enough to make the trip up the Thames today to Newbridge having heard about the arrival of six White Storks that have stopped there. On the drive there I count over FIFTY  Red Kites now that has to demonstrate the success of the reintroduction across the Chilterns. In Newbridge I find the Maybush Pub and use their car park to pull on the boots in readiness for a boggy walk along the banks of the Thames. This far up the Thames is a countryside river that has burst it's banks in places and flooded the fields around it. Only in Britain could we talk about flood warnings and hose pipe bans in the same breath.
The Maybush pub Newbridge
White Storks Newbridge 30th April 2012

Anyway I'm walking through the water logged field and make it to the second gate to find it totally under water so I'm forced to climb through the barbed wire fence to avoid a good soaking..........

The Thames full of the wrong water!
Half way between gate two and three and I can see the Storks through the trees but to get a better view I need to get the other side of gate three which is much wetter than the prior gate so I manage with some difficulty to creep along the fence line along the gate and over the fence to the side of the gate having been asked not to open the gate as it spooked the Storks earlier in the day...what a mission but worth it as I was rewarded with good clear views of the six birds feeding.

Satisfied with another lifer for 2012 I'm heading home via Lea Valley where I pick up a Garden Warbler and Hobby to bring my year list to 214.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Wet but no wind

Hoping for the wind to be in our favour we headed down to Dungeness. Jimmy wanted to stop off for a Turtle Dove in Northwood Hill so we took the eight mile detour towards High Halstow and found Northwood Hill RSPB. It was grey and wet and after an hours walking with the dampness creeping up the trouser legs and starting to penetrate through the boots into the socks we had to depart minus the Turtle tick. Good place though with Nigthingale, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat (first of the year) and generally good for woodland birds so I may be back when the weathers better. On leaving the car park I spotted two swifts flying over (another first for 2012) but the boys failed to catch a glimpse. We took to the M2 and cut across to the M20 to complete the 90 mile drive with a quick energy boost from the golden arch drive thru and we're standing on the beach looking at Gannets and Grebes...and more Gannets and more Grebes but not a single Skua. Bumped into a nice local who kindly opened the hide. (They keep it locked to keep the fishing fraternity out and the lovely smell you associate with sea fishing which makes sense but maybe they should consider somewhere local to leave birders a key)
Porpoise are playing close in around the bhoy and we get a few swifts and swallows coming in off the sea which please the Jims as they can now tick Swift. Two Kittiwakes and an Auk fly past but we decide not to wait on the wind changing and head off in optomistic mood towards Rye Harbour.
On route we pull over to view ARC pits and find a group of waders and wagtails on the waters edge. Closer inspection reveals Pied, Yellow, White and Channel Wagtails so a decent stop followed by hundreds of Swift flying low over the water and to think we we're happy with the distant glimpse achieved earlier of one or two birds...there could be over a thousand hunting here...We take the short (15 miles) drive from Dungeness to Rye and make our way around to Ternery Hide which gives up good views of Med Gulls, Common and Sandwich Terns but not the expected Little Terns. After an hour or so it's time ot move on and we're walking around the outside of the reserve to find the fields at the far side that have been home to several Whimbrel lately. A long walk with little interest save Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers until I spot a distant Whimbrel feeding followed by another four close to it. These give good scope views and bring the days total to 79.
Church of the Holy Spirit Rye Harbour
Happy with the find we head back and take in the local chippie before heading back to Essex with my year list now standing at 211. Thity Nine to find but I'm well aware that this 39 are going to be harder than the previous 211. Onwards and Upwards and with a week in Wales coming up followed by a few days in Scotland I'm confident that I'll be well on my way by the end of May.

Sunday 22 April 2012

22nd April "Team Work"

Despite not having any birding planned for today I'm up early and walking the dog at 6am....I have this curse of not being very good at staying in my bed once my eyes are open..I'm basically a lousy sleeper!.

Anyway I've just got back with a Staffie that's now knackered and ready to sleep and the text sound goes on the's Jim on his local patch at Lea Valley and he has a Greenshank in his scope.
Being ten minutes away I feel the need for speed and head off. On arrival Jimmy has moved on but I take the short walk to the Wake Hide and sure enough there's a nice Greenshank feeding infront of the hide. A cuckoo calls right outside the hide too and before I leave the Greenshank flies onto the pool in the next field calling as it goes....a nice quick local tick taking me to 208 for the year and leaving me some 42 short of the target set of 250 this year.

Satisfied I head home after sending Jim the thank you text and I'm home before 8am with the wife unaware I've even made the trip. Nice text from Jim too to let me know he's bagged eight new ticks for the patch year list....not bad before 8am!....mind you he puts the hours in on that patch so knows when anything new has arrived....He later bagged another two making ten patch ticks on the doesn't get much hotter than that as a patch birder.

A quick visit to the old mans to check he's on the mend and a pit stop at Sainsbury to stock the fridge and wash the car and I'm all set for a day in the garden.

The local Heron has been in my pond so we're keeping a close eye on that and the dog's doing a grand job of guarding it for me. Nice little surprise today when a Speckled Wood, Peacock and then a garden first in the form of the Orange Tip pictured below.
Female Orange Tip Butterfly
A little smasher!

21st April A cold day in Kent

An early start without "the old man" who was laid up for the weekend saw us arrive at Dungeness for 7am. A little sea watching disappointed despite a good crowd all we saw were a few Scoters, Gannets, Grebes, Gulls and Common Terns. Bitterly cold with a southerly wind it was more like January than the end of April. We took to lower ground and headed off for the moat around the bird observatory where we located five male Wheatear. After stopping to watch the Wheatear feed for half an hour we carried on around the moat and soon located a Firecrest. We plotted up on the footpath and watched the bird for a while and soon had a crowd of birders gathering for a glimpse of this little gem. A right little cracker! After stopping to search out the Glauc Gull we headed off to the RSPB reserve.

Good views of Little ringed plover, A nice small copper butterfly, loads of Sedge Warblers singing and good displays from the Marsh Harriers but very little else to report. We took a drive down the back of Denge Marsh hoping for Whinchat but had no joy so headed off home after a quiet and cold mornings birding on the Kent coast....Nothing new to add for the year but some good views of birds already listed and my first Small Copper of 2012

Friday 20 April 2012

20th April Catching a few locals arrivals

Having stopped of at Chafford Hundred in the week for Sand Martins I found an hour to stop at Fishers Green on the way home today in search of Nightingale. As I stepped out into the car park I could hear my first Cuckoo of 2012 and soon located it in the picnic area. A short walk towards the power station and my first Whitethroat of the year is spotted. Another ten yards and I can hear my first Nightingale singing. As I approach I get a fleeting glimpse of the bird high in the tree but with this bird it's all about the song. A white wagtail shows itself along the path but won't make it on my year list which now stands at 207. 43 more to find to hit the target. A trip to Wales is planned as the wife and I celebrate 30 years together but I'm sure I'll find a couple of days to catch up with a few birds there and then it's onto sunny Scotland on a birding trip which will hopefully help me close the gap. The challenge is certainly taking me to some great places this year...Now where do I go tomorrow?......and what will I see?

Monday 16 April 2012

17th April .....HOOPOE

                    A better picture of the Horsey bird kindly forwarded last night by Julian Bhalerao

Sunday 15 April 2012


2011 Was the year of the "dip" when it came to Hoopoes. We missed no fewer than nine birds. I took a boat trip for one and missed it by a day, got locked out of a reserve while it was there (Rainham again and those ridiculous 5pm closing times) We missed one at Canvey Island by seconds etc etc. so I've been watching the one that's been at Horsey all I go for it? will it stay? or will it leave the day I go?
I've wrestled with it all week and decided to make the trip on Sunday morning. A 5am start and I'm pulling into the car park at Horsey Gap by 7am (126 miles not a bad run in the rain) A short walk up the track and we head for the caravan park where the bird has been reported all week. A couple of locals are sitting in the sand dunes when we arrive and are quick to tell us the bird hasn't yet been seen and that they are there for a Serin that's shown a couple of times this week in the Linnet flocks. We get comfortable and after 2 hours we've seen no Hoopoe and no Serin. A smart male Ring Ouzel did show well though. We get a tip that the Hoopoe has been sighted a mile or so away on the Nelson Head Track so head off with haste. A calf sapping walk along the dunes for what seemed a lot more than a mile and we hit the track only to be told that a dog walker had just flushed the bird......Can our faith in the birding gods be tested any further?....As we start to despair I catch sight of the target in typical "butterfly" flight at first I'm thinking is that it or a woodpecker but in seconds I make the shout and the six birders present are all on it as it flies away to the dunes where we catch up with it and watch it for a while feeding on the track ...WOW we've finally added Hoopoe to our British lists. 4 Ring Ouzel and several Wheatear show in the fields behind and I catch a pair of Cranes flying high over Stubbs Mill. We headed back to the car with a swagger and "The old man" buys the sausage sarnies to celebrate.

On the drive home we hear of an Osprey at Ranworth Broads and make the short detour for it. On arrival we're told to take the boardwalk to the visitor centre and the Osprey can be viewed from there. Sure enough after a ten minute walk we're looking at a distant Osprey sitting perched up on the far bank. Common terns, swallows and martins a plenty, Marsh Harriers, a sprawk and a Buzzard all keep us entertained but the Osprey remains fixed to it's perch. We give it around an hour and then hit the road for the 120 mile drive home. As we approach Thetford I decide to make a pit stop for caffeine and we plot up in the Brecks to scan for Stone Curlew whilst refuelling. I quickly find a bird and Jim gets his scope on it...another tick taking me to 202 for the year now. I feel it'll get a little harder now as I chase the other 48 I need for my target.
Spring arrivals due in the next week will add a couple though I'm sure.....what and where?..time will tell!

 Pictured are Horsey mill, Horsey Gap, The seals on the beach at Horsey gap and a tiny record shot of THE bird.

Horsey is well worth another visit and I don't think it'll be long before we're back.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Yesterday I left home at 7am for work got home at 6pm and then worked until midnight.....crazy day so I needed a little fresh air this morning. Working today in Watford I thought I'd make an early start and see if I could find a Ring Ouzel on Blows Downs Luton. Up early and out of the door by 5.30am and half an hour later and I've negotiated an empty M25 and M1 and I'm parking in Kiln Way for the short walk to the Downs and the Tesco slopes. 
A short walk to the slopes and a female Ouzel takes flight from a bush as I walk past leaving me thinking "I hope that's not my lot"
I walked further across the downs and found three male birds and watched as they fead with some calling before the female dropped in to complete the quartet. The birds took flight when a jogger went past and as I was trying to relocate them another guy arrived (he'd obviously had a nice lie in this morning) and then came the question......"any sign?"  I tell him they've been seen but have taken cover and as he starts walking away the birds dropped to the ground again, luckily he wasn't far away and I was able to call him back to see them. With nothing else to see on the slopes I decided to head off towards Watford down the A505 and passed Pitstone Windmill on the way.

Red-crested Pochard
As I was going past Startop End reservoir it'd be rude not to stop for 5 minutes to see if the RC Pochards were showing. I pulled in the car park walked up a few steps and there you go....Red Crested's all too easy. (Nice Grey Wagtail and Wheatear here too.)
Two minutes up the road and I was at Wilstone reservoir. I walked up the steps and found over 30 terns one of which I ID'd as Arctic Tern. A Little Gull was seen by another birder but I couldn't get on it.
Lot's of Herons and  a few Swallows along with a Buzzard flying over and a singing Blackcap and it's a decent couple of  hours which takes me to 198 for the year. Back to work with a short drive to Watford and then onto St Albans and home for 7pm. 

The picture of the Ring necks was taken by "the old man" at Roding Valley.....His best yet!    
Dad's best yet
The weekend's fast approaching! 
The Hoopoe is hanging around in Norfolk.....will it wait for the weekend for me? Ring Necked Duck at Dunge?...another target bird and the Black Winged Stilts turning up are possible weekend ticks. We'll see!

Saturday 7 April 2012

7th April Dungeness " the usual suspects"

A 6am start, flask filled, sandwich made and we were off down the M20 towards Dungeness. A road closure at Ashford sent us round the houses and the 90 mile drive is stretched a little but we arrived around 8am. With a quick stop to check ARC pit from the road I found a Spoonbill for my partners in crime and it obliged with a nice flight circle over our heads before returning to the scrape. I picked out both Long Tailed Duck and G W Egret before we moved on and saw Wheatear again on the road to the point.

Light drizzle and quite cold but no wind are not a great combination for sea watching but we gave it a go.
A few harbour porpoise playing in the warm waters from the power station but otherwise just the usual suspects...G C Grebes, Kittiwake, Cormorants, Gulls etc (no skuas...nothing of note apart from a possible Little Gull) We headed to the moat and it was still raining and it was still cold...the walk round the moat revealed a single Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler and two Blackbirds...really quiet. Luckily I picked out a distant Black Redstart and another Wheatear in the power station grounds otherwise it's one of those mornings to forget. A quick coffee and we made the short drive to the reserve. Tree Sparrows are all around the entrance gate but we found no Garganey on Balderwell pond. Our walk round the reserve delayed briefly while the "old man" negotiated the Tea machine for a cuppa and chatted up the lady giving out the pass to the reserve. We found our first Sedge Warblers of the year (192) outside Dell Hide and a couple of Marsh Harriers gave good displays but otherwise the walk dissapointed. Jimmy gave it another go for Garganey before we headed back to the car for the drive home. Just as we got in the car the pager shouts GARGANEY AT what's a bloke to do? He's seen Garganey but his mate hasn't yet this year....does he head home early or take the nine mile drive to Rye...we headed for Rye and a short walk to the imformation point (where I picked up a Common Tern (193) )and we're heading back to the car to follow directions to Castle Water where the Garganey have been seen today......Up the road, down the road, past the white portacabins, turn left etc etc..we've gone half a mile and got lost but there's hope......we could see a castle and we're looking for Castle Water so we put "2 & 2 " together, we parked up and head across fields to the castle hoping we were warm.
Camber Castle
Camber Castle built by or for Henry V111.  We walked through gate after gate passing sheep after sheep....Two Mute Swans got a little frisky with us and we were forced to give them the slip as we passed through yet another gate but good news we could now see water! Is it Castle water? Lot's of Cormorant, Tufted duck and gulls no Garganey and no sign of a hide that they'd been seen from. Let's walk round says Jim....really says I? but what ya gonna do having come this far so we walk round and stumble on the elusive hide and it is really tucked away...a real hidden hide.
We enter the hide and before we take a seat the lady sitting inside with the man sitting in side asked me if I can help ID a strange duck for her.....Great I think must be Garganey but could it be? Yep sitting in front of the hide are a lovely pair of Garganey. "Garganey" I say "Thought so" she says. Jimmy's well pleased as the treck proves fruitfull. Better still to come in a good hours or so in the fewer than five Garganey appear, ten or more Med Gulls, Two Snipe drop in, Marsh Harriers hunting in front of the hide, three Yellow Wagtails (194) Swallows and the House Martins (195) make an appearance. A stoat is chased by a Rabbit in a strange turn of fate. What started as a day of usual suspects ended well and we made the long walk back ready for the long drive back. (The chippy in Rye allows a little refuel on route although at £1.80 a portion the old man needs help opening his wallet)
The field

Wednesday 4 April 2012

4th April "One Swallow doesn't make a summer"

Glossy Ibis in Essex
Working in Essex today on the home patch and with an hour to spare I decided to see if I could find the Glossy Ibis that had been reported. With limited directions "in pond by Fox and Raven pub, Gt. Baddow" and having not seen it listed today I was too close not to try for it. With the help of google I located the pub and sure enough the bird was showing from the car park. In search of a closer view I headed down a nearby road and bumped into Roy Woodward (A face I see regularly and know from various twitches (Rose finch, Green winged teal, Rose Coloured Starling etc) He seemed to know the way and then revealed he'd tried this morning and failed but knows a way into the field and he was  pleased to hear that I'd seen the bird. We headed around and crossed the bridges into the flooded field that backs onto the pub. The bird showed well and from around fifty feet we snapped away. Roy then suggested I take a couple of shots with my camera on his lens...Now I was packing a Sigma 300 and he was carrying a Nikon 500 VR and 1.7 convertor. The result of this loan spell is above. A cracking bit of kit that I'd love to own and what a gentleman he is to let me use it. Whilst there I saw a passing first of the year (191) and with temperatures dropping and snow on the way I reminded myself  "One Swallow doesn't make a summer". Onwards and upwards and roll on the weekend.