Monday 27 August 2012

Lifer at Languard

Common Blue Butterfly
With the old fella laying in his bed Jim and I headed up to Languard in Suffolk to see if any migrants had landed. We arrived at 7.30am and searched the bushes along Icky Ridge before arriving at the observatory. Our search rewarded us with a couple of splendid Lesser Whitethroat, a juvenile Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and a couple of Blackbirds...fair to say it wasn't what we'd hoped for.  We found ourselves sitting on the beach for a while were we hoped to find Jim a Black Tern. We spotted four Common Tern fishing and a single Sandwich Tern flew over. Lot's of Gull activity and a couple of Cormorants came by. Then a little excitement as two Barwits flew past and we noted a few Gannets further out. Hundreds of Starling were feeding around our feet with good numbers of Linnet, three Mipits and a pair of Wheatear. We heard Chats but didn't see any and lot's of Sparrows were viewed in the vain hope of finding the record breaking Spanish Sparrow reported here a few days ago.

So it'd be fair to say it's an average day until that is a Long Tailed Skua came flying towards us filling the scope as it came right up the the shore and around the harbour before flying off south.
Fantastic views and a lifer for me and for Jim.

We had a celebratory coffee at the beach hut before making our way back to the car.
Languard observatory with Felixstowe dock behind
A quick stop at Layer Breton Causeway on the way home gave us Marsh Harrier, Ruff, Green and Common Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, Red Crested Pochard and three Red Breasted Geese
 (of questionable origin) We had hoped to catch a Black Tern for Jim again here but it wasn't to be.

A nice day out with a butterfly count of seven species which included Painted Lady and bird 257 for 2012.

Sunday 26 August 2012


The Magic Bush
After yesterdays double dip on the Wryneck at Wanstead I was encouraged by the senior of the Jim's to try again today. So we set off at 6.30am and made the five mile journey down the now unblocked M11. Parked in Lakehouse Road we make the short walk to the SSSI where a couple of eager locals are already on site.

We line up in front of the "Magic Bush" a closely guarded secret amongst the Wanstead patch listers.

Here yesterday I had Pied Flycatcher. Today we have regular visits from a male Redstart, Garden Warbler, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Black Caps, Robin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tits and Dunnock. Overhead we had Sprawk, RN Parakeets, Cormorant, Geese, Ducks and a Jay amongst other corvids.

We watched the magic bush for three hours..yes three hours watching a bush!

Just as the back ache was getting the better of me and I'd started to move another birder put up the balloon....."Wryneck top right quite deep in the bush" We all got on it and although it was not sitting out we had good scope views of it before it dropped down to the ground again.

I decided to take a long walk round to see if it was visible from the other side.
Having walked about 50 yards past the bush I cut through the brambles to make my way around only for the bird to fly up infront of me and land in a nearby tree. I called Jim on the phone and he put out the message to the others still standing at the "magic bush" and they all managed to get on the bird again.

A great bird and only five miles from home.

A footnote: Sometimes when you visit peoples local patch for a twitch they can be a little pompous and protective but on this patch every single patch worker / lister appears really happy to share "their patch" with those that visit, tick and move on and this is a terrific area which is really well worked by the locals.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Sandpipers at Oare Marsh

Quick trip down to Oare Marsh this morning resulted in the new bino's getting a good test as the sky was grey and light drizzle in the air but I picked out four Curlew Sandpipers (3 on East flood and 1 on the west flood) Also had a Wood Sandpiper and two Green Sandpipers on West along with a Little Stint.
Greenshanks fly from East to West flood calling and the rain seems to bring out the Snipe as they fly around the reserve. Large flock of Black tailed Godwit which contained several Barwits, Good numbers of Avocet, Golden Plover and Redshank with one Spotted Redshank present. A little Ringed Plover and a few Dunlin dropped in and both Wimbrel and Curlew were seen on the mudflats.

Yellow Wagtails were present and the marsh held a few Ruff in various plumage.
Little Egret and Heron fed along with Cormorant.
In between the showers it was a nice morning which the wife enjoyed too as this reserve can be viewed from the car.

News of a Wryneck forced me to stop at Wanstead on the return route but the search was in vain as the bird had moved on or gone to ground. I did get Common Redstart here which is always nice to see.

The new Bins impressed today in gloomy light but I hope to give them a better test tomorrow.

ps.I returned to Wanstead later this afternoon but the weather was bad with grey skies and heavy rain even the odd flash of lightning. I didn't find the Wryneck but did connect with a Pied Flycatcher which was a small reward for another two hours on site in the rain.

Friday 24 August 2012

And the plunge is taken

Well the day has arrived and I've finally taken the plunge and opened the wallet wide enough to allow the required amount of money to fall out in exchange for some Prime binos.
I spent time at the birdfair trying various manufactuers equipment. I came home and spent time looking on line before finally falling over the line between caution and investment.

The SWAROVSKI SLC 8 x 42 HD are my binocular of choice and I have handed down my Nikon Monarchs to the wife with her old Bushnells on the way to the charity shop.

Before they went I carried out a little experiment from the garden.
I looked through the old Bushnells, then my trusted Nikons and then my new Swarovski's graphic, the difference between each is I ever used those Bushnells I'll never know.
These Swaro's will be tested this weekend I'm sure but I've christened them with two distant Cormorant over the house tonight.
They come wrapped up like a diamond necklace.......I was like a kid at Xmas opening the boxes etc.

I think this is going to be the start of long and lasting relationship.


Monday 20 August 2012

Dipping on Tawny Pipit at Barking Bay

Yesterday saw a late report of Tawny Pipit at Barking Bay. I think Paul Hawkins found it on what is his regular patch but with the report coming late and me having a couple of beers whilst enjoying the sunshine I couldn't make the evening run to Barking but decided to give it a go early this morning on the way to work.

At 6am I was parked up in Renwick Road , I walk through the small squeeze gate and I'm making the short walk to the shore line to be greeted by another early birder with news that he hadn't found the bird yet. We searched some more and found Mipits and a Skylark along with Gulls, Shelduck and Comorant but no sign of Tawny Pipit.
Visitor centre
Yellow Wagtails fly over and a Kestrel hunts. A few more local birders arrive around 7am Nick Croft and a friend who's name escapes me although I know the face. They say they tried last night but it had gone to ground before they arrived which made me feel better for not trying yesterday. They did however know where it was last seen but after an hour searching I have to call it a day and get myself off to work.

The bird wasn't reported today so I guess it dipped in, fed and moved on towards it's destination.
Visitor Centre at Barking Riverside
So Tawny Pipit is now added to my "dipped out" list and I'll have to wait for another opportunity to add it to my year/life lists.

My August target is looking to be a struggle with five birds still needed but we live in hope!

I have two weeks off in September so that should help bring a couple more ticks and failing that I'm sure it'll give me a few nice days out and I may even book a cottage break on the coast somehwere.

View from Barking Bay

Saturday 18 August 2012


Today we made our now annual pilgrimage to Rutland for the Birdfair. Leaving home at 6am with a quick stop in Beds for yesterdays Dotterel which failed to oblige and we're in the car park bang on time at 8.55am ready for the gates to open at 9am.
 First stop before the crowds arrive was the Swarovski stand to try out the new ATX models and they don't disappoint. As I'm trying the ATX 95 an Osprey flies by carrying fish and I manage to get Jimmy on it too..great bird through a great scope now that is a bonus. Later the old boy also gets Osprey from one of the hides around the birdfair as it flies past.
Reed Warbler

Juvenile Blue Tit

With a large bank loan pending we moved on to the BTO ringing stand and watched as Blue Tit, Chiffchaff, Robin and Reed Warbler went through the ringing process. It's really good to see these birds up close and they appear tiny especially the Chiffchaff.
Moving on we do the tour of the stands taking time to talk with Mike Dilger, Johnny Kingdom and Bill Oddie along the way. Nice people who seem to enjoy the attention and conversation.
Jim senior also enjoys the " celebrity " part of birdfair and builds a list of "faces off the telly" that includes Jonathon Scott, Mark Carwadine and Charlie Hamilton James.

Mike Dilger
Johnny Kingdom

Bill Oddie

It's a hot day with tempartures above 30 degrees so we head for the beer tent and sink some cold Lager followed by an ice cream....both went down well I can tell you as those tents were steaming.
A welcome site!

As we leave the birdfair for another year we head round the reserve by car and stop at a nearby bridge to scope the Ospreys. Two birds show really well near the nest and I managed a distant record shot. Jimmy and I then tried out his new digiscope set with the results posted on his blog..hope they come out well as they looked great through the scope/camera. It wouldn't be birdfair without catching up with some Ospreys on the day.

Ospreys at Rutland water

Lot's of Peacock, Gatekeeper, whites, Comma, Meadow Brown and  Brimstone Butterfly about today which was good to see as it's been a poor season to date.

Another quick detour to try for Black Terns which the Jims need for year ticks and then the 100 mile journey home.

Nice day had by all but I now have a wish list of gear that will set me back thousands......when I actually part with the cash is the only question needing to be answered now.
An artist paints her part of the Birdfair Mural
Where else would you see that?

Opened by Sir David Attenborough and this sculpture recognises that

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Quail at Wallasea Island

An early morning trip to Wallasea Island provided bird number 255 for the year and gave me my fifth since setting the challenge to get ten by the end of August. As I've blogged before these challenges get me up and out and have today taken me to Wallasea for the first time.

With the reserve being only 40 miles away and in my home county of Essex I'm struggling to think why I haven't visited before as it gets some good birds posted.
I drove the 40 miles down the A127 towards Southend and followed the sat nav to Brays Lane, Ashington. This road took me to a farm yard which it turns out is co operating with the RSPB and a new road has been laid from the farmyard through the crop fields to a small car park where access to the Estuary etc can be gained.

I didn't have to travel far from the car. As I got out I saw a small flock of Corn Bunting and they flew in to allow a couple of photo opportunities. As I had the camera clicking away I heard the "Wet my lips" call of the first this year despite trying a few times to catch up with one.
I enjoyed the encounter and as I got back in the car a Little Egret flew up and a Kestrel hovered.
Corn Bunting
This site is a real gem with the big focus on the crop fields and managing them to the benefit of the birds as the sign below illustrates "giant bird table"

The site is a short way from Paglesham Harbour which also looks more than worth another visit.
If watched more these sites would I'm sure bring in more bird reports as the habitat is varied.
Wallasea crop fields
Wallasea estuary
Paglesham Harbour


My next stop will be the Bird Fair at Rutland on Saturday but I need to find another 5 species before the end of August....what, where and when are the questions to be answered here later.

ps....this green bug landed on my car windscreen whilst parked at Wallasea and managed to cling on for 18 miles at speeds of upto 70mph so I had to take a photo before lifting it gently onto a hedge. (He earn't his bit of luck today)

Sunday 12 August 2012

Landguard Nature Reserve

Decided to take a trip to Landguard today so Suzanne and I took the dog to explore this reserve near Felixstowe. With the sun shining the place is packed with day trippers. Some are here for the sun, some for the sea, some flying kites and others walking the dog but only a couple of birders are seen.

Languard Bird Observatory
A short walk along Icky Ridge and we're at the bird observatory pictured above.
a little further on and the Landguard Fort and the Lighthouse have also been seen. The habitat is perfect for migrants dropping in and indeed today had seen Pied Flycatcher and Barred Warbler although I didn't catch either.
I saw House Sparrows and Linnets and a single Blackbird and Willow Warbler but the bird count was dissapointing, perhaps not surprising with the number of "tourists" about.
Nice to see a good variety of Butterflies with some small blue the highlight here.

Landguard Point

My first visit here but I'm sure it won't be my last. I'll drop back in when the weather is worse and hope for less people and more birds.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Kent birding

Picked up the Jims and decided to head down to Kent in search of a year tick today...when you get over 250 they get a lot harder to come by. A quick stop at Lea Valley to see if Jim can get Wood Sandpiper on his patch but all we see are Greens, Lapwings and a plonker walking around the edge of the scrape with his camera oblivious to the fact that he was flushing everything in sight......some people!!!!
Anyway back in the car and across the QE11 bridge into sunny Kent and by 8.30am we're driving down the rough (and I mean rough) track at Cliffe towards Black barn pool. We stopped to check Radar pool to find lot's of Godwit/Avocet and 7 Greenshank amongst the Ducks, Grebes, Herons and Egrets and then further on up the sump busting track.
Stopping to scan from the mound at the barn we quickly find loads of Snipe (30 plus) a few Green Sands and a Spotted Redshank then I pull out an adult Whinchat before locating a Wood Sandpiper and Golden Plover. A Marsh Harrier puts everything up and the sky is alive with birds for a minute until it drifts off without a catch.
We make our way round to the car park (back along the track that would test Colin Mckray) and then it's another walk to Ski Pool..take the track from the car park and then the second track on the left Ski Pool is on the right followed by Flamingo pool.
A couple of birders are alreay at the site and have Little Stint in their scope and after a couple of directions...."See the BH Gulls...go right....see the Dunlin.....see the Ring Plovers to the left......well the Stint is between them."  Nice work guys and I have a year tick. Cracking little bird it is too.
Satisfied we head off down the M2 to Oare Marsh but not before a Sparrowhawk flies through the car park after the finch flock.

We scan the Marsh from the car (no we're not that lazy we got out of the car before we scanned it)
Hundreds of Black Tailed Godwit, Good numbers of Avocet and Golden Plover. Lapwings and a few Ruff along with Redhank and Greenshank. Duck, Geese, Egrets and Herons show before a large female Peregrine puts every bird on the Marsh into the air as she stoops and flies throught the crowd to feed catching a Godwit only to come away with just feathers. A real pleasure to watch this incredible bird go about it's routine before drifting up high and away.
Before Peregrine

After Peregrine
Once this had settled down we decided to try for Turtle Dove by the entrance and anticpated a log walk around the maze field. Our luck was in as we found the target from the track sitting in a dead tree purring away. Time for a quick record shot before it flew to the other side of the field onto the telephone wires. Satisfied with the view we'd had we walked the circuit of the East Flood, Bearded Tit ping along the top of the reed bed and on our return leg we found a single Wood Sandpiper which gave really good scope views. All in all a very nice days birding in Kent.

A few record shots from Oare Marsh
Peregrine, Little Egret, Turtle Dove and Wood Sandpiper
Boat race on the Swale

Year list now stands at 254 and I've found 4 of the ten I wanted before the end of August.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Wood Sandpiper Cornmill Meadow

This morning I found myself working my brothers patch in search of Wood Sandpiper. Jim needs it for a year tick and has made a couple of trips without finding it on his patch.
I'm on Cornmill Meadow Lea Valley and in the hide before 7am to find the Wood Sand walking about right in front of me. I called Jimmy to see if he could make a detour on his way to work but he wasn't able to divert so he's planning an early trip tomorrow now.

Cornmill Meadows scrape
Although I've seen Wood Sand this year it's always nice to see them and this was a nice close view giving the opportunity to pick out ID features. After a short showing the bird wandered back into the muddy edge in front of the hide and out of view although it could be seen as it walked along between gaps in the reed.

Also on the scrape this morning were 3 Green Sandpiper (These remained distant on the far side of the scrape) , 36 Lapwing and 9 Canada Geese along with 2 Moorhen families and a couple of Mallard.
Over the meadow House Martins and Swallows are feeding and a large flock of Goldfinch are calling along the river bank. The local cows are reluctant to let me pass on the way back which gives a little concern but I put my soldiers hat on and go for it.

A quick change of footwear and I'm in the office for 8am for another day of pushing numbers and problem solving.