Thursday, 31 January 2013


A quick review of where I am versus last year.........
January 2012 saw me connect with 153 birds of which included three lifers
January 2013 has given up 155 but no lifers.

Birds seen last year but not connected with this January are
Arctic Redpoll , Arctic Skua , Black Redstart , Black Throated Diver ,  Mealy Redpoll
Crossbill , Dark Eyed Junco , Glossy Ibis , Great Grey Shrike , Great Northern Diver
Kingfisher , Lapland Bunting , Lesser Spotted Woodpecker , Lesser White Fronted Goose
Raven , Rough Legged Buzzard , Spanish Sparrow , Treecreeper , Western Sandpiper
Whooper Swan and  Woodlark

But obviously I've seen two more so there's a few on the seen this year but not seen last January.

Bearded Tit , Bittern, Buff Bellied Pipit, Corn Bunting , Crane, Dipper , Eider
Ferruginous Duck, Fulmar , Great Skua , Hooded Crow , Jack Snipe
Lesser Canada Goose, Marsh Tit , Med Gull, Red Crested Pochard , Red Necked Grebe
Rock Pipit , Shag , Slav Grebe , Stonechat, Woodcock and YL Gull.

So although I've seen more species this year it's not been as HOT as last year with nothing new added to the life list at this point. I'll try to catch a few of the birds missing from last January in February and attempt to keep my nose in front of 2012 in the hope that it takes me out to some great places and clears my head of the stress and strain of chasing numbers at work every day.
Now there's irony......I chase numbers all day and then relax by chasing numbers.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Fudge Duck at Priory Country Park in a ten minute twitch

I stopped at Priory Country Park today to see if I could connect with a Fudge Duck. The weather was very wet and very windy.
Priory Country Park
I parked in the car park of Barkers Lane and walked the twenty feet or so to the edge of the lake.
Within seconds I had the Ferruginous Duck in my scope (154) and then the guy that found the bird approached to ask if I'd found it and to say he can't find the Black Necked Grebe that had been reported so I oblige and locate it for him but it also gives me tick number 155 for the year.
Ten minutes birding gave me two quality ticks for the year.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Dip and Tick

We decided to make the journey up the A10 for Great Grey Shrike seeing that two had been reported today at Therfield. It took a bit of finding once on the heath but we eventually found the part of Icknield Way where the Shrikes had been seen today. A long muddy walk in a gale with  no sign of any Shrikes so a long muddy (uphill) walk back.  Large flock of 30 plus Yellowhammer present along with Buzzard and Red Kites seen on the way up the A10. On the journey home Jim spotted three Grey Partridge (153) in a field off the A10 so we did manage a tick for the journey and the Shrike will wait for another day.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Hooded Crow in Kent

Dungeness was the venue of choice today. We arrived at 7.30am and plotted up on the beach using the hide as a wind shelter. Great Crested Grebe were on the sea in large numbers, Guillemots and Razorbills (146) were both on the sea and flying back and forth in the hundreds whilst several Red Throated Diver were on the move before a large flock of 300 plus flew by with a larger unidentified bird amongst the flock which we're thinking must have been a GN Diver but we can't be sure.
A couple of single flying divers also look to be more like Black Throated Diver than Red Throated but again I leave unsure. (Note to self: must do more sea watching)

On the patch I found a Little Gull (147) in with the vast numbers of BH and Common.
Hundreds of Cormorant were moving through and a Red Breasted Merganser dropped in for a few minutes before heading west. In the distance Gannets fished and a single Bonxie (148) was seen on the horizon.

We decided to hunt down the Glaucous Gull by the fishing boats having missed it on our last trip and this time after a long walk on the shingle we located the bird (149) and had good views although it was sleeping most of the time.
Littlestone On Sea
A quick drive round the coast then followed as we'd heard of Snow Bunting at Littlestone. Pulling into the car park next to the Life boat station we walked the shingle noting Knot, Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and Redshanks on the tide line before we were put on the buntings by "the plodding birder" Two great little birds giving it up for the camera. (150)
Snow Bunting Littlestone
Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting
From here we visited Oare Marsh and saw Avocet (151) Smew, lot's of Snipe, Grey Plover, Dunlin and on the way out I watched a Merlin hunt. The last visit of the day was Harty Ferry Lane where we hoped to connect with the reported Hooded Crow. On the way down the lane I stopped to ask a birder if he knew where the Crow was last seen and it turned out he was the guy that had found it so he recommended we try from the end of the lane near the church. We scanned the fields on the way down to reveal Hen Harrier, Buzzard, 50+ Corn Buntings and 7 Crane.
Swale NNR
Arriving at the church I scanned the salt marsh from the gate and managed to find the Hoody (152)
This was a great relief to not just me but my birding companions who also did not need to make the mile long walk to see the bird, instead we were able to return to the raptor view point to connect with another ringtail, Marsh Harrier, Merlin, Bewicks Swans and the Cranes again.

A nice day in Kent with the only disappointment being the Potato Dog I picked up for lunch...if you're thinking of trying one..DON'T!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Black-Bellied Dipper Thetford

I woke at silly o'clock today so took an early morning (and I mean early) trip to catch up with the Black-Bellied Dipper that's been hanging around under the Nuns Bridges in Thetford for a while now.
The bird is a variety of Dipper not yet recognised by the BOU as a split from our usual Dipper found in Britain. It breeds in Scandinavia but moves south for winter and doesn't make our shores often.
The difference between the two Dippers is that ours would have a chestnut shade to the belly where as northern race doesn't.  (hence the Black-Belly.....good this naming business....just say what you see)
I parked at the Nun's Bridge car park by the BTO office while it was still dark and made the short walk to the metal bridge across the main river then over the small wooden bridge across the stream and I could see the faster moving shallow stream a few yards away which looked ideal for Dipper.
The bird was already in the stream and allowed a close approach while it happily fed. (143) A little cracker which gave crippling views. Whilst there I also saw a pair of Marsh Tit (144) and a Woodcock (145).
Dark-Bellied Dipper

An hours birding before work....can't beat it!

Now what's the weekend going to deliver? (apart from more snow)

Thursday, 24 January 2013


Common, Mediterranean and Black Headed Gull.

Mediterranean Gull Southend
Med Gull
Med Gull
Corn Buntings at Wallasea Island
Watching the Corn Buntings
Hen Harrier at Wallasea Island
Wat Tyler Scrape Hide
Today I dropped in to Wallasea and Wat Tyler.
Wallasea had several large flocks of Corn Bunting gathering whilst a single ringtail hunted and a Merlin flashed through twice before heading over the river bank and away. A fox kept watch entertained by the Buntings and then showed some interest in the Pheasants flushed by the Harrier.
Lot's of Fieldfare about and a single Reed Bunting.

At Southend I pulled up to see about twenty Brent Geese on the sea and lot's of BH Gull about. A few Herring and Common Gull also waited for the locals to feed them and two Mediterranean gulls also sat with them. Turnstone and Sanderling walked along the shore line.

At Wat Tyler I put down a deposit in exchange for a key to the Scrape Hide only to find two locals already in the hide watching the Caspian Gull. Also present amongst all the gulls was a single Snipe and a small flock of Stock Doves. Gulls here included BH, Common, Herring, Yellow Legged, LBB and GBB whilst the only  other birds here were Coot and Gadwall.

Following this I returned to a long hard day of chasing numbers.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Rainham all to myself

As I was working local I paid a visit to Rainham today. I had the place to myself with the cold weather putting off all but the hardiest. The drive was hazardous and two cars had been abandoned on the road leading to the car park. (I was glad to be in the wifes 4x4).
The Stone Barges
On arrival I quickly found my first Jack Snipe of 2013 (139) and shortly after my second appeared as it was  flushed with Snipe. It seemed every step I took a Snipe flew up from the foreshore making that distinctive grunt as they flew.
Curlew over the Thames
12 Curlew appeared and both Lapwing and Redshank were also seen .
Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler represented the ducks on the Thames and a Water Pipit was located along with a couple of Mipits. A large flock of 30+ Skylarks (140) took flight as I headed round to scope the gulls on the tip. Scoping the gulls on the river and those on the tip I found two Yellow Legged (141) and eventually to my relief a single Caspian Gull (142) amongst them. Not an easy task with the volume of gulls involved.
Gulls on the Tip
Gulls on the Thames
The weekend was a wash out with work and snow preventing any degree of birding so it was nice to get a little in today.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Another day trapped by Snow

It's snowed all day today leaving a good four or five inches on the ground. With the forecast for heavier snow in the afternoon and evening I decided today would be a risky time for a birding trip so spent the day with the wife and spent a while enjoying the different birds in the garden trying to survive the weather.

Pied Wagtail
Blue Tit

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Garden Birding and Bittern at Lea Valley

With the weather being bad and just recovering from last nights entertaining drive home from work I thought I'd leave the car on the drive and stay home then I spot a Blackcap in the garden looking for apples and I'm all out of apples so what's a man to do? I got in the car drove to the shops and bought the Blackcap some apples and while I'm there I spend a couple more of my hard earned pounds on nuts etc.
The shopping trip paid off as soon after putting out the fruits back came the male Blackcap to feed on them.
Male Blackcap in the garden
The apples also attracted eight Blackbirds (including "the Vicar") and two Fieldfares.
The Vicars wife

Other visitors today included up to 15 Chaffinch, 6 Greenfinch, 12 Goldfinch, 3 Robins, a Dunnock and a Pied Wagtail, a Jay, a Song Thrush, a pair of Siskin, Woodpigeons, Collared Doves, Feral Pigeons, Jackdaw, Crow, Magpie, BH and Common Gull, Lot's of Starling and a couple of House Sparrow so quite entertaining.

Having to then make a trip to collect a car with my son I decided to stop in at Fishers Green and check for Bittern. I had good but brief views of the Bittern and a Water Rail  made a short walk up the river to find more than a dozen Goosander before the cold got the better of me and sent me packing for a warm up.
View from the Bittern Hide at Lea Valley
 No year ticks but a nice walk.

Friday, 18 January 2013


Epping Forest
Connaught Waters

A very white Connaught Waters in Epping Forest today.

About an inch of snow fell today with more forecast over night making it hard times for the birds here over the next few days.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Green Sandpiper but no Jack Snipe

Paid a very quick visit to East Hyde today in the hope of connecting with Jack Snipe.
They haven't been reported this year at the site but with the big freeze I thought they might have arrived today. It's a nice site for a work day as you can pull up and see the area from the car on the main road. As I pulled up at the bridge to look over into the small channel I saw a Green Sandpiper (138) and Little Egret with a pair of Mallard and several BH Gulls. A Red Kite hunted low over the snow covered field close by and the colours of the bird next to the white ground were stunning.....No camera to catch it unfortunately.

I scanned the edge of the channel but couldn't find any Snipe so that tick will have to wait for another day.
On the drive round the London orbital car park (M25) I saw another Red Kite sitting in a dead tree and several Buzzards one of which hovered like a Rough Legged but I have seen Common do that before and it was too far away and too brief to call anything other than Buzzard.

Bracing myself now for the Snow that's forecast this weekend and the birds it may bring in.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Blackcap in the garden

I woke this morning to find a blanket of snow on the ground.
A sprinkling of the white stuff in the garden
My first thought was great that might bring a few birds into the garden looking for food and sure enough it did as a male Balckcap visited to feast on the apples I've planted in my Budleah.
I counted 18 Chaffinch, 12 Goldfinch, 6 Greenfinch, 4 Great Tit and 6 Blue Tit, a pair of Siskin along with 3 Blackbird, a Song Thrush , 2 Robin, a Dunnock, a Pied Wagtail, several Wood Pigeon and a couple of Collared Dove all taking advantage of my feeders along with the single Blackcap.
(Year list now at 137)

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A little patch work

I decided to visit Jim's patch today. I parked in Fishers Green car park and walked the river path towards Grebe Hide. There was lot's of activity along the river with large tit flocks everywhere but I only noted Blue, Great and lot's of Long Tailed. A Green Woodpecker called and two Greater Spotted flew over head calling. A Heron hunted on the river bank and four Bullfinch (135) flew in to sit in the open and give good views whilst further up the way I found several Goldcrest and from the hide Goosander were seen.

Grey Heron and Tufted Duck
A large flock of 100 or so Siskin fed in the Alders and an African Weaver was a strange find from Grebe Hide too. Returning to the Bittern hide I picked up two Lesser Redpoll (136) and a couple of Snipe on Lapwing Island.
A nice morning on Jim's patch before returning home where the garden was alive with birds including Siskin. The new feeder is proving very popular and the Vicar has also been feeding well today.

As a foot note I took delivery of my "blog book" yesterday. A hardback book featuring every page of my blog from 2012. A nice keepsake especially if blogger ever decides to delete the file or I make a mess of it. I fear now my obsessive nature will require another one for 2013!

Blog book 2012
The Blog Book

Saturday, 12 January 2013

American Buff Bellied Pipits in Berkshire

Popped round the M25 early this morning and took a quick look at Staines Reservoir where we found just Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Cormorant and GC Grebes. Quickly we moved on to Queen Mother Reservoir where we made our donation and entered the car park. We walked the reservoir for over four hours connecting with the Long Tailed Duck, the Slavonian Grebe and a pair of Peregrine sitting on the tower in the middle of the reservoir. We enjoyed a coffee and breakfast on site before going back out for another circuit of the place in search of the American visitors. The bird was seen at 9.25am from the opposite end of the reservoir to us but by just a couple of birders and it took flight before the message got out. It (they) seem much more flighty than when I saw it before Xmas.

Just as I had decided to leave two pipits flew overhead from the gravel pits and landed on the reservoir banks where they fed for a moment before flying off to the south where they were later found.
Windsor Castle across the Queen Mother reservoir
We picked up a few Red Kites over by Windsor Castle and three more on our way back round the M25 near the M1 junction. We had a nice morning with plenty of banter between birders and saw a few familiar faces despite it being freezing cold but it was dry so we were thankful for that and the year list moved on to 134

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Quick catch up in Essex

Working in Hadleigh today I found a few minutes to catch up with a few year ticks.
Firstly after checking out the Common Scoter and Long Tailed Duck at Gunners Park (Both seen already this year)  I drove past Southend Pier where I connected with Mediteranean Gull (130) and Red Throated Diver. Along the front Sanderling and Turnstone fed and gave me the opportunity to snatch a couple of shots.

After work I popped down to Wallasea to connect with Corn Bunting (131) and Short Eared Owl (132) along with Barn Owl.

Half an hours birding giving up three year ticks along with great views of some often distant regulars.

Sanderling at Southend
Long Tailed Duck and Common Scoter

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Rainham Marsh and Epping Forest

Jim and I took an early morning stroll along the sea wall at Rainham this morning where we picked up Rock, Meadow and Water Pipits. Rock Pipits must be present in double numbers.

Mandarin Ducks at Strawberry Pond

On the drive to collect Jim I had a Barn Owl hunting along the David Lloyd fields so technically my first Roding Valley tick of 2013 should I ever get started on it as a patch.

As we moved to the visitors centre I picked up a Stonechat and there was a Ring Necked Parakeet near the feeders. We found the presumed plastic Ross's Goose on the reserve keeping the company of several Greylags and saw it in flight too which was good. On the foreshore we saw Wigeon, Shelduck, Teal, Redshank, Dunlin and Curlew before we made a quick stop in Epping Forest to pick up Mandarin Duck for a year tick. Strawberry Pond has an established population of around twenty birds.

A Goldcrest showed along with Coal Tit and Nuthatch.

Back at home I have planted a tree and set up a new feeding station in the garden.

Year list now at 129 and still under a week long so moving along quite nicely....
When and what will be the first lifer of 2013?

Saturday, 5 January 2013

ticking in Kent and a male Hen Harrier steals the show

We made the drive to Kent this morning having decided to start our new years list in Norfolk last week rather than our South East favorite.

We first stopped at Walland Marsh, parking in the Woolpack Inn car park and crossed the road to enter the marsh and walked the raised border for about half a mile. Marsh Harriers were in good numbers and a Ring tail Hen Harrier was seen. Cetti's Warbler called and Bearded Tits pinged. A distant SEO hooted or at least that was what we thought we'd heard but we remained unclear even after seeing what looked like one too.
(Not sure enough we left it to tick another day)

On scanning the fields to my right under the wind turbines I found a Crane feeding in the open and quickly got the Jims on it. We had really good views of it before returning to the car for a warm up.
On the way to Lydd we stopped to scan a field full of Swans to find many of them to be Bewick.
Whilst searching here for any Whoopers we found firstly a Merlin and then the bird of the day arrived in the form of an adult MALE Hen Harrier. The bird hunted the field in front of us for a good half an hour dropping to the floor several times as it hunted. A fabulous encounter which will stay long in the memory.

We moved on to Dungeness where we searched for the Glaucous Gull without luck.
On the sea we found lot's of Gt Crested Grebe including one Leucistic bird. Gannets fished, Guillemots were on the sea in large numbers and a large flock of Common Scoter flew past. Adult and juvenile Kittiwakes were present and a few Red Throated Diver were also seen close in. We encountered several Gt Wh. Egrets one really close in a field by the entrance to the RSPB track. Smew were seen on the reserve and of course Tree Sparrows fed on the feeders at the gate.

The White cliffs of Dover
We debated a drive to Dover Harbour where a Black Throated Diver is still being reported and as we're only 20 miles away it had to happen. On arrival we scanned the harbour from the life boat station and quickly find Red Breasted Merganser and Shag but the Diver gave us the slip.
A walk down to the lighthouse gave us two Purple Sandpipers and despite being told the Diver had just shown we still didn't connect.
Dover Harbour

A cracking day...the year list now sits at 124.   Onwards and upwards!