Sunday 30 December 2012

Review of 2012 and my BIRD OF THE YEAR

Took what will most probably be my last trip of 2012 today.
We headed down to Wallasea Island Essex with the hope of catching up with a male Hen Harrier.
We had views of Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Kestrel and Sprawk along with Barn Owl and Short Eared Owl so a bit of a raptor fest but no sign of any Hen Harriers let alone the desired male bird.
Lot's of Corn Bunting about with a couple of Stonechat along with Brent Geese and Redshank.

So the finish line is in site for 2012 and here's my summary.

It's been a great birding year.
I smashed my self imposed year target of 250 birds with 279 recorded for the year following the 238 in 2010 and 242 in 2011.
I saw 37 Lifers this year and visited Scotland for the first time in my life where I ticked both Golden and Sea Eagle along with Black Guillemot, Black Grouse, Crested Tit and Hooded Crow.

The quest took me to Wales too and I have visited over forty different reserves in my search for ticks.

I finally connected with a Hoopoe after three years of dipping when one stayed at Horsey long enough for me to find it.

My life list has been nudged to 312 in my third year of listing.

I witnessed such delights as three different breeds of Redpoll in a single tree at Titchwell
(Lesser, Mealy and Coues's Arctic) and then connected with Suffolk's bird of the year (Hornemann's) to make it four Redpolls this year. (Accepting the Arctic as one on my year count)
Megas included the Short Billed Dowitcher at Lodmoor, The Buff Bellied Pipit in Berkshire , the Dark Eyed Junco in the New Forest with the Spanish Sparrow (Also had LB Dowitcher , YB Warbler and Rose Coloured Starling down here), Pagham's Paddyfield and the Common Yellowthroat in Wales.
Nearer to home I connected with Rainham's Baillon's Crake (How did we all fit in that hide?) and the Desert Wheatear at Abberton.
East Anglia delivered Barred and Booted Warbler along with Red Flanked Bluetail, Red Breasted Flycatcher, LT Skua Nightjar and a Richardson's Canada Goose.
Essex gave up Marsh Warbler and Olive Backed Pipit.
A trip down the Thames gave me a Bonaparte's Gull while Herts was the county for my First White Storks.

I spend a lot of time in Kent and found my first Caspian Gull and Pallas's Warbler there this year along with many other year ticks.

Cambridgeshire was the venue for White Rumped Sandpiper and I travelled to Leicester, Glamorgan and Yorkshire for Ring Necked Duck, Lesser Scaup and American Wigeon.

I picked up good views of Red Tailed and Harris's Hawk escapees along with the Sacred Ibis at Cley.

So with all that said how do you pick the bird of the year?
Do I go with the rarest or maybe the bird that showed best or closest or travelled the most for me to connect with it...or is it the bird I travelled most to see?

No my personal bird of the year is the Montagu's Harrier at Boyton Marsh. My first and a bird I have wanted to see since I can remember. Couple this with the fact that I had a couple of hours alone with the bird as it hunted close to me and it was one of those experiences with nature that doesn't come along that often and it's a BOP and I always like to see them.

As for other wildlife well along with Fox, Rabbit, Red Squirrel,  Stoat, Weasel, Mink, Water Vole, Fallow Deer, Roe Deer, Red Deer, Chinese Water Deer, Muntjac Deer, Dolphin, Porpoise, Seals and Snakes the highlight would have to be the Basking Shark up in Scotland.

The dips this year have included Black Kite, Capercaillie, Leyton's Melodious Warbler, Pacific Golden Plover, Parrot Crossbill, Savi's Warbler, a Two Barred Crossbill reported the same day I was at Lynford, Barking's Tawny Pipit and White Billed Diver.

Best trip would have to be  the three days I enjoyed in Scotland and this will be a place I return to in 2013 for longer.

Targets for 2013 include Dotterel ( another Tarts tick) Ptarmigan and Capercaillie along with Cirl Bunting. All are birds I should see if I put myself in the right place at the right time.
I'd like to think I can add another twenty to my life list in 2013 but don't plan on setting a year list target so I can concentrate on my life list via the odd twitch whilst enjoying some good days out in some new places.

Happy new year to anybody that takes the time to read my scribble on here and here's to a cracking 2013 for all birders.

You might also like to read my thoughts on the chase and the sanity of setting the target in the first place.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Pictures of 2012

A few of my fondest memories from 2012........
From left to right.......Puffin, Lesser Scaup, Waxwing, Great White Egret, Little Stint, White Stork, Glossy Ibis, Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Little Bittern, Alpine Swift, Dipper, Buff Bellied Pipit, White Winged Black Tern, Sabines Gull, Hoopoe and THE VICAR.

View from Portland
Adder at Minsmere
Silver Washed Fratilary
Marsh Fratilary
Orange Tip in the hand
Perfect seat
The Sufolk Hornemann's Redpoll
Waxwing in Buckhurst Hill

Holkham and an approachable Sanderling

Sunday 23 December 2012

Of unkown origin

Took a drive up to Norfolk today as the weather promised some dry spells. Covered the 120 miles in 2 hours and by 8am we're pulling into the car park at Cley coastguards.
In the coastguards hut we stumbled upon a dead Shag which was not the best start to the day.
We watched as Geese and ducks flew past and a single unidentified Diver before we headed off to Kelling in search of the Richardson's Canada Goose "of unkown origin" . We walked the public footpath from the A149 and scanned Kelling meadow from a distance picking up the group of Canada and Brent Geese.
Amongst them is the Richardson's, a lesser Canada goose smaller than Canada and slightly larger than Brent.
Kelling Meadow
We needed to get closer so took a drive down to Salthouse and walked the shingle bank back to Kelling where we managed to get much closer without disturbance to the birds. We had watched as joggers ran right along the fence line without spooking the birds so knew we could get quite close but we remained mindful of the birds levels of reaction and kept back from the joggers route.
Close enough but not too close!
We could see from this position that the bird was indeed different as well as smaller and we managed to see the black line in the white of the under throat as it fed.
Clearly there will be discussion about the "origin" of this bird.....has it come in with other northern Geese and found the company of these Canada's or is it a feral bird.....if feral where has it been????
The bird had now been seen from the footpath at Kelling and from the beach. We'd walked about a mile to have these two views only to find it again as we parked up at the local pond. Although it remained in a distant field it gave good views again and as we watched it the local Mute Swans took interest in us.
Richardson's Canada Goose (in the fore ground)
So we've nailed our first bird "of unkown origin" and as we're driving back I spot another as the Sacred Ibis is feeding in a field and gives us good views both feeding and in flight. We also see a Bittern fly across the reed beds at Cley  as we watch the Ibis. Again the birds origin is unkown with the most likely explanation being that it's moved on from the feral population in France.
Following on from this we spent a few minutes at Cley car park where we enjoyed a coffee from the coffee van man whilst watching the Turnstones turn a few stones.
We moved on the Stiffkey where we watched two ringtail Hen Harrier and a juvenile Marsh Harrier.
One of the Hen Harriers came in close at pace before hanging in the air and then dropping onto an unfortunate Reshank.

On the way home I stopped at Holkam trying to get the Jim's a White Fronted Goose tick but found only Pink Foot, Brent and Greylag. I made one last run to see if I could get them a year tick as we drove around the Wolferton Triangle looking for Golden Pheasant but they were dissappointed as none came out while we were there.
A quick stop on the way home for Jim to treat his driver to lunch and we're home to watch Chelsea roll Villa over like skittles.

Good day up in Norfolk with two birds we enjoyed regardless of their ORIGINS!
Mute Swan

Friday 21 December 2012

The only way is Essex

Decided to stay in Essex today due to all the flood warnings and the world was also due to end at some point today so I needed to get home quick time if that happened.

First stop was an hour on Layer Breton causeway Abberton where two drake Smew showed and at least thirteen Snipe were counted but otherwise nothing of note.

We moved on to Abbots Hall farm where we walked down to the hide to view the marsh. Finches, Reed Buntings and Yellow Hammers were present in good numbers along the path. Upto six Marsh Harriers hunted and a falcon sat on a post in the distance which we thought was probably Peregrine but it was distant.

Good numbers of Pintail here along with Teal, Wigeon and Brent Geese. Curlew, Golden Plover, Lapwing and Redshank covered the waders present. Grey Heron and Egret were also seen from the hide.

We moved down the coast towards home stopping at Bradwell-on-sea on route.

We parked at the small car park in East End Road and walked to the Chapel noting Corn Bunting along the path. The Bradwell bird observatory is a few yards from the chapel so we paid it a visit noting good numbers of Finch on the feeders along with Coal and Marsh Tit. A GS Woodpecker was present along with a couple of Mistle Thrush.
Sitting on the bench at the observatory we scanned the marsh (and the Bradwell sea cockle spit) and our reward for a couple of hours here was distant flocks of Brent Geese, Lapwing, Golden Plover, a few Curlew and Egrets and a single Marsh Harrier.

On the walk back to the car we watched as a kestrel took a Goldfinch for lunch.

Nice to spend a day birding the home county, dissapointed we didn't connect with any Hen Harriers but pleased the world didn't actually end as predicted.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll at Aldeburgh Suffolk

I saw the European Arctic Redpoll that spent last winter in Norfolk. That was a Coues's Arctic Redpoll that lives and breeds in the Tundra of North America and Northern Europe. The bird in my sites today was a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll ( Carduelis hornemanni ) and it has travelled from Greenland or Canada.
The people twitching this little guy could well be the first people the bird has been in contact with, it certainly shows no fear of man.
The Redpoll is in that grass on the left.

The bird is a first for Suffolk and a very rare visitor to our Island.
Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll

 We spent a few hours today with the little star either side of a walk around a very quiet Minsmere.

Quite a crowd

Along the way we found a house surrounded by strange garden ornaments / sculptures
These steel sculptures are the work of Suffolk artist Paul Richardson

The Gulls also enjoyed a little of our lunch which gave me an opportunity to catch a couple of shots.

Having now seen Coues's and Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll I'm ready for the official split when it comes and a nice armchair tick on the life list!.....surely the split will come.

Friday 14 December 2012

Buff Bellied Pipit in Berkshire

With my Xmas holiday officially starting yesterday I found myself still at work today presenting in Watford.
Now fate is a funny thing.....15 miles down the road an American visitor was seen yesterday at Queen Mother reservoir in Berkshire.
Datchett Sailing Club
News broke this morning the the Buff Bellied Pipit was still showing but a mixed message regarding access to the reservoir was put out.
The Jims decided to try their luck so I arranged to meet at a local church and drive the next 15 miles together.
The Jims minutes before their next  lifer

We arrived on site still unsure if access would be possible and the weather was nasty. As we pulled up at Datchett Sailing club we found Lee Evans sitting in his car at the gate and he had decided to man the gate all day to allow fellow birders access which was really good of him. He gets his share of bad press but those that knock him should take note of today's actions. I for one was pleased with his gesture as it allowed me to connect with a lifer.
American Buff Bellied Pipit

We walked left to the far corner of the reservoir and found a couple of others already on the bird which always helps. The sky was grey and the rain was heavy but I managed a couple of record shots only due to the fact that the bird showed to within a few feet on the reservoir banks as it took food from the waters edge.
Buff Bellied Pipit
Great bird...nice tick but we did get a good soaking to get it.
Bird 278 for the year and the life list is also boosted by it too.

now...WHAT NEXT!

Saturday 8 December 2012

Hawfinch at Bramfield Church

Having seen reports of Hawfinch showing at Bramfield church in Herts this week we headed off to see if they'd show and get the old man his 250th year tick and what would be a lifer for the "old tart".
I've seen Hawfinch at a couple of locations this year but he's been getting twitchy about making it to 250 this year so we made the 18 mile trip and arrived at 7am.


Barn Owls quartered the cricket pitch field as we arrived but were quickly put down as up to ten Magpies mobbed them, although one was seen again a little later.

 We stood with two other birders in the churchyard and at around 8am we had the first sighting as five birds dropped in first stopping in the tall poplars and then dropping onto the Yew at the back of the churchyard to feed.
We stayed for five hours and had really good views on and off as the birds flew in and out with one bird showing very well for a while by the Rectory gates.
We saw a group of five and a group of three so there could be five or eight here.
Also we noted Nuthatch, GS and Green Woodpecker along with Green, Gold and Chaffinch, Gt, Blue and Coal Tit  along with Goldcrest, Redwing, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush etc.
The little shop in the village is very welcoming and does a nice Croissant and Coffee combo and the staff in the pub are also very welcoming.
 Hawfinch virgins
The birds attracted over fifty birders today and amongst them Lee Evans dropped in as this is local.
A good crowd and some nice banter enjoyed by all as we waited for the odd glimpse of the birds.
The Hawfinch virgins numbered in double figures so the old boy was in good "tarts tick" company.
But the reward for a long stint was the good scope views we all enjoyed.

On the way home we stopped off at Amwell and had Scaup and Smew after a ten minute walk to the weir  before heading off for a warm up and some munch.

Friday 7 December 2012

Quick trip to Lea Valley for Bittern

I popped over to Lea Valley Country Park tonight hoping to see Bittern from the Bittern hide.
As I entered the hide Jimmy was already on site and reporting no Bittern.

We sat and waited and had several good views of Water Rail and the briefest of Kingfisher as it flashed by but no Bittern appeared despite being posted on the sightings board.                                                                                                                                                                  On the way in I encountered a large herd of Fallow deer in Upshire, which numbered over a hundred and a couple of Muntjacs were also seen.

Sunset from Bittern hide
Geese over Holyfield Farm
From the hide I took a few pictures before the sun dropped and I headed off home to plan tomorrows outing.

Blue Pheasant